By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball team defeated crosstown rival Bristol Central on Thursday, Jan. 19 by a 64-38 final from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium in a CCC South tilt.
The win was the sixth over the past eight games for the Lancers (9-4 overall) while the Rams fell to 1-10 on the year.
It was the first of two meetings by the schools.
Eastern attacked offensively off the bat and when those shots didn’t fall, the squad went to its defense, forced turnovers (28 overall for Central) and turned those miscues into lay-ups and points that saw the visiting drew lead from wire-to-wire.
“In the beginning of the game, we missed a few [lay-ups] but I thought we really started to pick it up at the three-four minute mark,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “We started to get into transition to make some nice plays, we had some nice passing, filled the lanes, and I think our pressure heated up a little bit.”
“We did a better job at trapping and rotating and anticipating in the passing lane which was a key.”
It was balanced as balanced could be by the Eastern offense as Diana Wnuk (10 points, nine rebounds, four steals) led the charge while Miranda Janick (eight points, nine assists), Miya Laprise (eight points), Hannah Maghini (six points, three rebounds), and Jillian LeBeau (two points, four rebounds, three steals) all made contributions to the starting line-up during the winning effort.
Then, the bench duo of Paige McLaughlin and Meredith Forman were near brilliant as the duo canned seven-of-10 field goals overall, mixing and matching with the starters seamlessly.
Foreman co-led the squad in points with 10 while snatching five rebounds and four steals while McLaughlin canned four shots for nine points in her best offensive performance of the campaign.
While reserve Julia Tice is nursing a back injury, that seven-man rotation has been getting it done for the Lancers.
“Everybody was on target” offensively said Floyd. “We got a great lift off the bench from Paige McLaughlin and Meredith Foreman. [Julia] Tice isn’t playing right now so we’re short. Those other kids are starting to step it up and we got a few things from the other kids.”
“I was very pleased them being able to keep it going when I took kids out where I was rotating seven or eight kids and they did an excellent job tonight.”
Central also showed balance as Meghan Hamel, who played one heck of a game, ending the night with 10 points – including two three-point bombs – while Ashley Watson hit the boards and came away with eight points.
But in the end, Eastern simply had too many answers offensively and defensively for Central to contend with.
“We battled,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “Eastern’s a great team. They’re well-coached. They do everything right. You know, I’m proud of the effort in the second half. We didn’t fold. We kept working and it’s been this way all season.”
“We struggled to put the ball in the hoop, we turned the ball over and when you do those things, when you allow second chance opportunities on offensive rebounds over and over again, when you turn ball over and over against the press, teams are going to beat you by 25 points.”
Central’s Zoe Sinclair also got off several shots early for the Rams and posted seven points, Ravan Rodriquez also went for seven while teammate Sarah Strlkauskas hit a three-pointer for the Rams.
“At this point of the season, we’ve got to look and see some positive things,” said Gaudet. “And I had some positive things with Zoe Sinclair giving me a great game today and others off the bench that did some things that, you know, stepped up.”
Rodriguez canned a short shot to trim an early Eastern edge to two but the Lancers rode off 15 straight points over a span of 4:01 and when Maghini zipped in a floater and Janick found Laprise for a base-line jumper, the road squad was out in front by a 19-2 push with 1:11 left to play in the first period.
“Miya Laprise did a great job shooting today,” said Floyd. “Same thing with Hannah and Maranda Janick…they all chipped in and did a good job of outside shooting [in] the offense and in transition.”
After Allison Jessie opened the second frame for Central with a free throw, the Lancers used a 12-2 jaunt to pick up a 33-7 lead with 2:52 left in the half – started by a neat inside hoop from Wnuk – as Eastern put the pedal to the medal once again.
“Diana did a great job on the boards,” said Floyd of Wnuk. “She had some crucial rebounds, especially in the beginning of the game. She played a lot but in the second half, she didn’t play as much. I took those guys [starters] out. [But] she was still a force inside.”
Hamel quickly canned four free throws to key a quick 6-0 spurt as a jumper by Watson trimmed the deficit to 33-13 with 1:23 left before intermission.
“Meghan Hamel played a good game today I thought,” said Gaudet. “She distributed the ball, got some open shots late. I saw some good things tonight.”
Floyd started going deep into his bench by the halftime buzzer as the Lancers led 37-13 after two completed frames but the long time coach went back to his starters again in the third stanza to extended the edge.
A 12-4 Eastern run was punctuated by a steal and hoop from Foreman and when Eastern’s Julia Gettings kicked in a jumper, the Lancers were in charge by a 49-17 cushion with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
Central trailed 50-20 going into the final period but managed to outscore the Lancers 18-14 the rest of the way.
Eastern mixed-and-matched starters with reserves but when Watson and Hamel connected on back-to-back three-point plays, it was a 60-35 game with 1:52 to go.
“That’s been a big thing is putting the points on the board,” said Gaudet. “But, they give me the effort. They work hard, they listen. We’re not the most skilled basketball team [and] we’re not all basketball players. We play basketball because it’s something to do. They work hard and they give me everything I want. They’re very coachable kids, I love coaching them…sometimes, you’re in a sport and you’re in a little over your head. That’s what’s happening right now.”
“We’re not hitting shots because we’re not, maybe, capable of that right now.”
Foreman hit two late free throws and when Eastern’s Avery Arbuckle put in a missed shot, the Lancers eventually picked up a 64-38 win for victory number nine of the season.
“They’re doing a better job executing, handling the ball, not turning it over,” said Floyd. “That was the key in three of four losses earlier in the year where we didn’t close out at the end of the game. Tonight, I was very pleased how they kept their composure and even against Weaver the other night.”
“They’re really starting to understand how to protect the ball, use the clock and that’s a key for us if we want to do something in the tournament.”