By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Bristol Central boys basketball offense and defense is rolling in tandem, the young squad looks like an experienced, well-oiled machine.
And that effort came at the right time as crosstown rival Bristol Eastern made its way to the Charles M. Marsh Gymnasium on Friday, Jan. 22.
The Rams held the Lancers to a scoreless first period of play and a seven point second frame as Central eventually defeated Eastern, 53-33, in Bristol.
Defense was king for Central (4-7), holding the Lancers to 35 percent shooting from the field while cashing in on several turnovers and gaffes by Eastern.
And after Central scored the first 17 points of the game – holding Eastern scoreless over the first 10:49 in the contest – the Lancers had one heck of hill to climb.
“I’ll tell you, our kids followed the scouting report,” said Central coach Tim Barrette. “And not only did they follow the scouting report, they dug in the intensity. The intensity on the defensive end, we normally have it on the offensive end but tonight, the younger kids finally played the defense that they are capable of doing.”
“We’re very talented offensively. We know that, especially our younger kid but they had to buy into the defensive end. I’m much happier tonight than I was Tuesday night after a lackluster performance versus Platt (a 74-65 loss).”
Jamil Hornesby led all players with 15 points and a handful of assists while Jaekwon Spencer added 14 points to the winning effort.
Aaron Collins banged in three threes on his way to 11 points; A.J. Pahl hit for five points; while Mike Lemke, Alonzo Brooks, and Isaiah Miller all added hoops in the winning effort.
The Lancers missed their first 11 field goal attempts in the contest but once Darieyn Tate (15 points, five rebounds and two assists) finally got the visiting squad in the board, the team shot 14-of-29 from the field (48 percent) the rest of the way.
But before then, the cold shooting by Eastern hardly helped matters in the game
“The first couple of minutes, it was missed shots,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo of the first period shooting woes. “The rest of the quarter, it was bad shot selection. The ball wasn’t moving at all. We were, you know, making one pass and taking a shot, making one pass and then making a one-on-one move.”
“We didn’t allow ourselves the opportunity to get a good look at the basket.”
Eastern’s Tyler Tefoe added six points and five rebounds, Mike Rivera tallied five points and four rebounds, Dante Collins hit a three-pointer, while Carter Dziedzic snatched four rebounds and two assists.
Jake Violette scooped in three rebounds while Rajon Collins scored a hoop in the losing effort.
Central opened the first period with two hoops from Spencer, four points by Hornesby, and five by Pahl to give the home team a 13-0 edge after one frame as Eastern missed all eight field goals it took.
Later in the second frame, Hornesby and Collins each canned threes as long range bombs were on target for Central as the game remained a double-digit affair.
“I told my coaches, we missed a lot of easy looks from the foul line,” said Barrette. “We did a good job and the threes we took tonight we off the inside-out pass. And it’s much easier shooting the ball when it’s coming from the inside-out. Tonight, we took good 3’s. In the past, we’ve been going one pass and a shot and we didn’t have that tonight.”
“We moved the ball, we shared the ball, and it was a total team win tonight.”
Tate picked up two early fouls in the first quarter but was pressed back into duty before the end of the frame and, to his credit, he stayed in there and did not earn his third foul.
He opened the Eastern scoring with five straight points, including a three-point play with 3:59 to go in the second as the Lancers were trailing 17-5.
“I had to take him out after the second foul but there was no way I could leave him out of the game,” said Giovinazzo. “He’s the heart and soul of our team. If he’s not out there, without the energy he brings, we would crumble. I had to roll the dice and pay him with two fouls.”
But late three-pointers sank Eastern as Central went into the locker room with a 25-7 lead in hand.
“You know, you never feel comfortable in this game,” said Barrette. “And I know Coach G is playing with a short deck there. He’s lost two players and obviously, I respect everything he’s done for me and what he’s done for that program.”
Eastern’s offense came alive a bit in the third frame but couldn’t chop the deficit as Central at least maintained an edge of 15 points at all times.
Late in the third, Collins drained a turnaround jumper and when he kicked in another three-pointer, Central’s edge reached 37-17 with 2:29 to go.
“Central is a great ball handling team, a great passing team,” said Giovinazzo. “They sensed whatever you’re trying to take away from them and they go somewhere else. They have the weapons to do that.”
Tate flashed to the hoop for another bucket and when Violette found Collins for a quick lay-in, Eastern had it down to 16 before a lay-up by Brooks made it a 39-21 game with one period remaining.
Midway through the fourth, Tefoe and Riley Mason hit baskets to cut it to 16 again but, one more time, the Rams answered back.
On an 8-2 Central run, Collins hit a three and Hornesby – splashing in five additional points – gave the Rams a 49-29 edge with 5:11 to play.
From that point of the game, Eastern got no closer than 19 as Central won the tilt by a 53-33 final.
“We’ve got to try to make some adjustments and compete the rest of the way out,” said Giovinazzo. “I don’t know what else to say. The kids are working hard, they were diving on the floor, going after the ball. We’re a little bit short on offense right now. We’ve got to find some way to generate some offense whether it’s different combinations, trying some new kids. I don’t know what’s it’s going to take be but we got to make some moves here.”
It was a big win for Central as the squad needs to win four of the next nine final games to earn magical victory number eight for playoff qualification.
“[Coach Giovinazzo] fought, I knew they would fight,” said Barrette of Eastern. “He was a little shorthanded tonight but we took advantage of that and we did a good job on our side as well.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.