By MICHAEL LETENDRE
NEWINGTON – After getting blitzed the last time, the Bristol Eastern boys basketball squad traveled to Newington for a CCC South contest, the team from Bristol was not going to let that happen again.
And this time around, the Lancers played a tremendous half-court game, refused to let the Indians get out and run up and down, and trailed by just a couple hoops with 7:09 remaining in the showdown.
But late turnovers, a lack of ball handling, and offensive inefficiencies doomed the visitors as Newington hung on to win the game by a 44-31 final from the Richard Rogalski Gymnasium on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The loss halted a two-game winning streak by the Lancers (3-3) while Newington won for only the second time on the campaign (2-4).
Eastern took good care of the ball over the first half of action, turning it over only five times, while holding the Indians to a miserable 29.2-percent shooting clip during the first 16 minutes of play.
The Lancers led 20-18 at the half and upped that to four early in the third frame before a slow, yet steady, 22-7 Indians run made it a 40-29 contest with 3:37 to go.
“It really was a tale of two halves,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “I thought we played pretty good defensively for the entire game. I thought the points came off our ineptitude on offense. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half.”
Rod Jenkins flipped in 10 of his team high 12 points over the first nine minutes of the game for Eastern while adding three rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
He once again set up his teammates for hoops but when the misses began to pile up, leading to an ice cold 28.3 shooting percentage – easily a season low by Eastern – Newington was able to up its lead over the final period in quick fashion.
“I thought that he forced it early and he was a little more out of control than he has been,” said Ray of Jenkins. “The other guys were watching him, not helping him and when Newington did force [the ball] out of his hands, the other guys didn’t create any offense.”
“We didn’t cut hard, we didn’t screen anybody, and that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Tom Gonzales (eight points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) just missed a double-double, Tyler Mason had four points and three rebounds, Justin Blake added two rebounds while Jake Violette had a hoop in the losing effort.
Nate Silva played 12 minutes and managed a hoop and two rebounds while Matt D’Amato, playing in the fourth quarter for the third consecutive game, nailed a three-pointer in five minutes worth of play.
Cam Tate, Rajon Collins, and Mac Goulet all saw action for the Lancers on the evening.
Newington’s standout, Jared Simmons, was limited to five first-half points but ended with 18 overall to go along with three assists while Matt McKinnon was as good as advertised and belted the Lancers for 10 points and 10 rebounds.
But none of Newington’s early offense mattered when Eastern played a near brilliant half-court game and the pace belonged to the Lancers until midway through the third period when the Indians started cashing in on turnovers.
“We threw every play that we had in the half-court,” said Ray. “We didn’t read any plays and after we didn’t read the plays, we tried to open up the floor and let them sort of try to create. That’s not us. If you ask me, we created the tempo fine. If we’re playing in the 40s, I’m not upset. But the execution has just got to be better.”
Newington was limited to just six second period points and shot just 27-percent from downtown for the game.
However, the Indians shot better than 50-percent after intermission but even as Eastern trailed by double-figures, the squad was just a hoop away from making it a game again.
“It didn’t feel like a 13-point game at any point,” said Ray. “I think we were in the game even out of the huddles and the timeouts and the quarters [but] in the last few minutes, we started, once again, chasing them.”
“We’re not built for that.”
Jenkins canned two threes over the first period of play but Newington had a run of seven consecutive points which propelled the home team the lead.
Silva netted a lay-up with 2:20 to go in the first frame and when Jenkins closed out the period scoring with a lay-up, the Lancers trailed by just a hoop at 12-10.
Both teams did not do much scoring in the second tilt but Eastern’s defense was doing the trick.
The Lancers missed a few close-up attempts but when Jenkins closed out the half with two consecutive lay-ups off feeds from Mason and Jenkins, the Lancers took a 20-18 push into the halftime break.
“I know we had some open looks at some point and those didn’t go down,” said Ray. “It was kind of Rocky Hill all over again.”
Eastern picked up the first hoop of the second half when Gonzales found Mason for a quick connection and the visitors held a four-point edge at 22-18 with 5:28 to go in the third quarter.
But Newington netted seven straight points and when Andres Ithier-Vicenty canned a lay-up with 3:32 to go in the third, Newington led it by a 25-22 push.
Gonzales and Violette hit hoops to close out the third; but with eight minutes to play, the Indians led it by a 30-26 tally.
Then surging in front, Newington started the fourth with a 10-2 burst and when Simmons dropped in a dunk with 3:37 to go, Eastern trailed by eleven points.
Late in the frame, D’Amato hit in a three and when Jenkins scored his final hoop, Eastern did not notch another point and even as the Lancers held Newington to a season-low 44 points, it was not enough to capture a win.
“I just hate to waste a defensive effort like that,” said Ray. “You hold a team to 44 points, and not necessarily stalling the ball on offense. People are going to pick up the newspaper that weren’t at the game, and say ‘Hey, Eastern held the ball.’ We didn’t hold the ball. We held them to 44 points in the half-court and we just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
“That falls on me and it falls on trying to get the players in positions.”
Eastern went 13-of-46 from the field overall and if a couple earlier lay-ups dropped, the Lancers could have put additional more pressure on the Newington offense.
“We have to do a better job finishing around the basket,” said Ray. “That’s not something I can control right now. I just hoping the shots would go in. I just think it would be easier to play in a tighter game with them the way we were playing defense but once we started [getting] empty possessions, that was it.”
NEWINGTON 44, BRISTOL EASTERN 31
from Newington High School
Bristol Eastern (3-3) 10 10 6 5 – 31
Newington (2-4) 12 6 12 14 – 44
BRISTOL EASTERN (31): Tyler Mason 2 0 4, Roderick Jenkins 4 2 12, Jacob Violette 1 0 2, Thomas Gonzales 4 0 8, Matt D’Amato 1 0 3, Nate Silva 1 0 2. Totals 13 2 31.
NEWINGTON (44): Jared Simmons 7 1 18, Cooper Johnson 1 0 2, J.P. DeCastro 1 0 2, Matt McKinnon 4 2 10, Isaac Ortiz 1 0 2, Timmy Rivera 2 1 5, Andres Ithier-Vicenty 2 1 5. Totals 18 5 44.
Three-point goals: Jenkins (BE) 2, D’Amato (BE), Simmons (N) 3.
Records: Newington 2-4 overall, 1-1 CCC South; Bristol Eastern 3-3 overall, 1-1 CCC South