By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic boys basketball squad made a spirited run in the Class S state tournament fray, losing to Westbrook in the end – the state runner up – by 18 points.
The Knights were the better team that day but the Falcons did well overall in postseason play, going 2-1 and qualifying for the quarterfinal round of the bracket.
And while Bristol Eastern was left out of the state tournament dance, No. 24 ranked Bristol Central was involved as Class L’s postseason tilt and gave No. 9 Windsor one heck of a scare.
And once again, it’s time to announce the annual Bristol Observer’s All-Tournament teams for boys basketball in 2017.
Let’s start with the Bristol Observer First Team as the Falcons dominated the squad:
Mike Palmieri, Junior, St. Paul Catholic – Usually, all the big guns have a special state tournament performance during the postseason. Well, Palmieri had more than one…The obvious was the 25 points he drained against second round opponent Coginchaug in the 54-49 victory from Bristol with 23 of those points coming over the second half – 18 dropped during fourth quarter play (king of the fourth applies here)…But the other huge deal was during the first half of the St. Paul Catholic/Terryville opening round game in which Palmieri burned the Roos’ for four first half steals, setting the defensive tone of the game right off the bat, turning defense into offense…Averaged a slick 18.3 points-per-game in postseason play and is looking for a big 2017-18 campaign…Another two-time member of the All-Observer First Team.
Tyler Arbuckle, Junior, St. Paul Catholic – Made a tremendous impact over St. Paul Catholic’s final 10 regular season games when he was finally eligible to play, Arbuckle was certainly a grand addition to give the Falcons a “Big 3” in state tournament play…Averaged 12.3 points a game over the playoffs and while his shooting was a bit off over the first couple rounds, he put together his best game of the state tournament at the end…Canned a postseason career high 21 points in the season-ending loss to Westbrook…The three three-pointers he dropped against the Knights tied his postseason best from downtown as well. As a freshman, he hit three 3s in Bristol Eastern’s losing effort at Bunnell – the eventual Class L champion – in first round play…Over his career, Arbuckle has three postseason games of 10 or more points in four state tournament games.
Jaekwon Spencer, Junior, Bristol Central – When the big man went into the paint against the Warriors, Windsor didn’t have much of an answer for him…Posted 9-of-17 shooting from the field against the Warriors and also added two three-point bombs as well— leading to a team high of 21 points…Not your classic finisher at the hoop but was a little more effective away from the rim once Central broke the half-court pressure and he went to his midrange game…Had a little added responsibility scoring-wise with the departure of Jamil Hornesby to East Catholic and responded well at Windsor…Two time member of the Bristol Observer All-Tournament First Team.
Alex Bernier, Junior, Bristol Central – I’m going to admit this here: This is the player I fear most in all of Bristol…Bernier is an extreme rebounder who can and will pound the glass for offensive rebounds and put-backs…He can finish down low and those rebounding types aren’t found on every squad…Against Windsor, he snared 10 rebounds, nabbing seven on the offensive glass. That’s impressive against an athletic team like Windsor…Ended the contest with 11 points for a double-double while also blocking a shot…Hit five-of-eight field goals along the way and certainly is poised to have a big senior campaign for the Rams.
Austin Jones, Senior, St. Paul Catholic – Didn’t have to score as much this time around in the postseason but was pretty consistent throughout tournament play…Threw in 14 total points over the first two games but in the finale, Jones flipped up 17 points, 10 rebounds, a couple steals and added two three-pointers for good measure…Managed to average double-figures in points for the Falcons, dropping in 10.3 points-per-game overall…Added seven points over each the first two state tournament games and helped set the defensive tone of the first half of action against Terryville…Against the ‘Roos, Jones canned seven points, three rebounds, and two steals over the first half of action as the visitors were down and out early in the fray…Was a second team All Observer member last postseason.
Aaron Collins (Sr.), Bristol Central – Made two threes against the Warriors and pitched in 12 total points…But his night wasn’t just about scoring as he added four rebounds and moved the ball around the court effectively for Central in the squad’s passing schemes.
Matt Garry (Jr.), St. Paul Catholic – He’s a hustler on the court that added 11 points and a couple rebounds in the tough loss at Westbrook…Dropped in 17 points overall during the postseason for a valuable 5.7 points-per-game contribution off the bench…Had two rebounds, two assists and a two-steal effort in the five-point victory over Coginchaug.
Isaiah Miller (Jr.), Bristol Central, Guard/Forward – Put in more than a few points on the board when Central made a late run at Windsor…Netted eight points, seven rebounds and managed to dish off a handful of assists…Found his way to the free throw line, making 3-of-6 attempts…Back-to-back second team member of the Bristol Observer All-Tourney squad.
Mike Lemke (Sr.), Guard, St. Paul Catholic – Dropped in nine points against Windsor and played a ton of minutes…His athleticism was especially needed against Windsor…Went four-of-nine from the field against the Warriors and grabbed two rebounds over the losing effort.
Darek Wiecki (Jr.), Forward, St. Paul Catholic – “Kurt Rambis” did his job to near perfection: Rebounding and more rebounding…Over his last two state tournament games, he averaged 8.5 rebounds-per-game – nabbing seven offensive rebounds in the process over those two final contests…Note: Darek Wiecki does not LOOK like Kurt Rambis. He just plays like Rambis used to and that’s the ultimate compliment, believe me (thank goodness Darek doesn’t look like Rambis, though…).