By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team dropped a 71-54 to Central Connecticut Conference foe Manchester on Monday, Jan. 11, the loss was of devastating proportions.
The setback, from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol, dropped the Lancers to 2-5 on the campaign.
But Eastern also lost leading scorer and rebounder Tyler Arbuckle who injured his knee with 3:25 left to go in the third period.
He got fouled on a tough drive to the hoop, crashed to the floor and ended up tearing his ACL and MCL in the process – ending his 2015-16 season prematurely.
What also didn’t help matters any was the hot shooting by Manchester (5-3) to start the game as the squad drained its first six shots, notched 19 of the first 21 points in the contest and with 2:38 left to play in the first, the Indians held a seventeen point edge the visitors would never relinquish.
On the other side of the coin, Eastern took good shots at the hoop but an imaginary lid on the rim refused to let those attempts fall through.
“That was definitely a factor,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo of the cold Eastern shooting. “We had some good looks. We didn’t knock them down.”
Manchester’s Raekwan Canty netted 17 of his 20 points over the first half of play while teammate Philip Buccheri added 11 to lead the winners.
The Indians were allowed to shoot 54 percent from the field and with 2:07 remaining in the second period, the visitors led 36-12 as the Lancers had very few answers over the first 16 minutes of play.
“Defensively, we were very, very lax,” said Giovinazzo. “We gave them a lot of easy shots and easy dump-offs and second shots. And every time they scored, they get into their press and we were chucking the ball all over the place against pressure.”
“You put all those things together, you know, you’re getting run out of the gym in the first quarter.”
The loss of Arbuckle is significant as the sophomore was clearly the squad’s offensive leader, edging in seven points and three assists before leaving the game.
But the loss of the second year player gave the opportunity for freshman sensation Carter Dziedzic a chance to shine and in get some floor time.
And he turned his season high 22 minutes into an impressive 20 point, seven rebound, and four steal effort, with all those totals leading the team.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to build toward with him,” said Giovinazzo of Dziedzic. “We’ve been working him up a little at a time. Hopefully, he’ll be able to use his talents at this level. He’s still a rookie, he still makes a lot of mistakes but he’s an athlete and he’s a scorer.”
“So, we’re going to need him now.”
Darieyn Tate scooped up three points, three rebounds, and three steals, Tyler Tefoe added four points, four rebounds and two blocked shots, Nate Hickey ramped up four points and three steals while Rajon Collins (four points, three rebounds) and Justin Borgelin (four points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals) each performed well off the pine.
Jake Violette also canned a three-pointer late in the fray, hitting his second long bomb of the campaign.
Eastern never gave in and even after a rough start to the game, the squad made a run at the beginning of the third period of play to cut into the deficit.
It didn’t start that way as the Indians raced out to a 21-4 lead after one period of play and the tone of the game was set as the Lancers imply couldn’t buy a basket and Manchester hardly missed.
And that edge ballooned to 36-12 with 2:07 to go before intermission as Canty made a steal and a hoop as Manchester was in firm command.
But Tyler Mason found Arbuckle for a late three and when Dziedzic made an offensive rebound and put-back, the Lancers were trailing at the half by twenty, 39-19.
However, Eastern went on the attack to start the third period and off the power of a 6-0 push, the Lancers were on the cusp on making it a game.
Hickey drained a lay-up and Dziedzic canned two straight shots and suddenly, Manchester’s lead was chopped to 39-25 with 6:06 left in the third frame.
But Keith Kendall-Bey stopped the jaunt with an alley-oop slam and quickly, Manchester stretched it back out to 20 again in a flash.
“They had a couple of run stoppers when it looked like we were making a move,” said Giovinazzo. “They had a guy [Canty] that could get a big hoop for them and we just could never recover from that. We can’t bunch together enough offense.”
Kendall-Bey had a another dunk to close the period out with the Indians ahead by a a 52-32 push with eight minutes to go.
And when the youngster jammed in his final slam of the game, the Indians were on top by 26 (58-32) with seven minutes remaining.
Credit belonged to the home team as Eastern made a late run, forcing Manchester starters back into the game when Tefoe drained a free throw to cut it to 63-49 with 2:13 left to play.
But Eastern got no closer as Manchester won it by 17 and the Lancers had to go the rest of the season without the injured Arbuckle.
“It’s hard to even concentrate on the game when somebody goes down with an injury,” said Giovinazzo. “It’s very deflating.”
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS