By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central/Bristol Eastern girls basketball game might be a little more lopsided than usual as one team is playing hurt while the other squad is rolling and state tournament bound.
The Rams are hurting for sure and this challenge could be of epic proportions while the Lancers are solely concerned about one game at a time and winning every game for optimum playoff positioning.
Eastern has a deadly one-two scoring punch of Hannah Maghini and Diana Wnuk while Central will rely on the play of Ashley Watson, Sarah Strilkauskas, Raven Rodriguez and crew.
Here’s what to expect at the contest up at BCHS:
Bristol Eastern at Bristol Central
Time and Location: Thursday, Jan. 19 at 6:45 p.m. from Bristol Central High School (Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium)
The series between the squads…This series has been dominated by Eastern since the 21st-century. Enough said.
Players to Watch: Bristol Eastern – Diana Wnuk (sr, captain, forward, 14 points-per-game, 10 rebounds-per-game), Miya Laprise (sr, captain, guard, 5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 steals-per-game), Jillian LeBeau (sr, captain, forward, 4 ppg, 7 rpg), Hannah Maghini (jr, guard, 15 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.5 spg), Miranda Janick (jr, guard, 9 ppg, 3 apg), Meredith Foreman (so, forward, 3 ppg, 4 rpg), Paige McLaughlin (so, guard, 3 ppg), Julia Tice (so, forward, 2 ppg); Bristol Central (with everyone healthy…) – Brianna Hamel (sr, guard), Sarah Strilkauskas (sr, guard), Meghan Hamel (senior, guard), Ravan Rodriguez (sr, forward), Ashley Watson (so, forward), Sarah Guerin (jr, guard), Zoe Sinclair (jr, guard), Allison Jessie (so, guard), I’deara Gordon (jr, guard).
Bristol Eastern’s Record: At press time, the Lancers were 8-4.
Bristol Central’s Record: The Rams were 1-9 with a win over Maloney, 41-30.
Why Bristol Central could win: Central has such an uphill battle to climb it’s almost unfair.
But Central head coach Steve Gaudet has been here before and will have his troops prepared.
Injuries have stripped this team, once again, and this crew will somehow have to find ways around Eastern’s full-court pressing tactics.
Breaking that pressure could get the squad some easy lay-ups but so many things would have to go right for that to happen.
Watson can rebound and hit an open jumper, as can Raven Rodriguez.
Sarah Strilkauskas is an experienced scorer while Sarah Guerin, Zoe Sinclair and company will all battle on their home floor.
Why Bristol Eastern could win: Eastern has all the offense a good team craves with two experiences guards (Maghini and Janick) averaging a combined 24 points-per-game.
Maghin had over 20 three-pointers made entering this week and does a little of everything well.
Wnuk is a double-double machine and an excellent outside shooter to compliment her all-around game.
Laprise is a spunky guard that can get Eastern ten points in a game while Jillian LeBeau is an excellent athlete, sets good screens and picks while rebounding nicely in a crowd.
That’s the starting unit in a nut-shell and combine that with stellar bench play by Foreman, McLaughlin, and Tice – three sophomores with a bright future for the Lancers – it’s an overwhelming prospect for the Rams to tangle with.
Why Bristol Central could lose: A simple lack of scoring punch will lead to doom and demise against Eastern.
Central’s offense, understandably, has fallen off a cliff, and injuries will do that to a team.
And how do the Rams handle the full-court press Eastern will employ?
Plus, when Eastern gets into transition off misses, there are too many offensive weapons for Central to guard.
Simply put, the Rams can’t let the score get out of hand early.
Why Bristol Eastern could lose: With all due respect to Central, and here’s that thought again, so many things would have to go right in this one for the Rams to win.
Perhaps Eastern won’t take the Rams seriously enough, though in a rivalry game, that scenario seems unlikely.
If Eastern goes against the game-plan, throwing up three-point bombs early and often instead of attacking the rim, Central could get an early stranglehold in the contest.
The Lancers don’t turn the ball over very much but if Eastern starts to cough up the ball, there’s a chance for the Rams to cash in on some buckets.
Again, multiple things must turn on the visitors for Eastern to lose the game.
X-Factor: For Central, it’s the lack of any real pressure.
It’s Eastern’s game to lose and the Rams should just go out and play.
Everyone seemingly expects and Eastern win in a romp and that puts Central in a great position in that respect.
For Eastern, it’s the play of Janick.
The Lancers always seem to win when she throws up double-figures in points on the scoreboard.
With all the outstanding play from Maghini, teams might tend to forget about Janick but she can hit shots from all over the court and make the right pass as well.
And the winner is…Eastern piles up the points and wins it, 67-24