By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern boys basketball team rolled out to a 9-0 edge over RHAM in its season opener on Saturday, Dec. 16 and never looked back – eventually seizing a 59-35 win from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol.
It’s the biggest opening day victory for the program since Eastern picked off Southington 68-45 back on Dec. 14, 2011.
The Sachems were tall, boasting two 6-foot-6 plus center/forwards, but with Eastern’s stingy zone defense spreading the floor nicely, getting the ball into those trees proved difficult and when it got there, those players were swarmed by Lancer defenders and baskets were rarely scored.
Off those misses, Eastern got into its offensive sets, zipped the ball around with zest, and went inside/out for scoring opportunities.
“I thought we had some favorable match-ups on the floor,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “[RHAM] was big but I said earlier that they were going to have a hard time guarding us. What I was impressed with was how we were able to defend them in our zone and rebound out of it. That’s a big team and that created opportunity. With all those stops and all those made shots, we were able to settle into our zone.”
“It was a good offensive and defensive balance that allowed us to control the tempo of the game.”
The starting five from Eastern all gave something, starting with Carter Dziedzic as the junior pumped in a game high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds, and three assists in a complete game effort.
Nate Silva dropped a career high 15 points, including four three-pointers, and three steals, Mac Goulet scored six points and led the squad with nine rebounds and four assists – all career best numbers – Tyler Mason kicked in three points, three rebounds, and two steals while Camryn Tate had his best game in an Eastern uniform with six points, seven rebounds, two assists, and three steals.
“I can’t say enough about Cam Tate, his energy plays and running the offense,” said Ray. “Nate was able to knock down shots and of course Carter, he was phenomenal today, inside and out. He didn’t just settle. He went to the basket, he made foul shots. He did everything he needed to do to be successful.”
“Mac Goulet, Tyler Mason, I could say something [positive] about every kid…I thought it was very unselfish today.”
No one from RHAM scored in double-figures on the afternoon. Andrew Savage came off the bench to net eight points as did starting big man Alex Banas but the best scoring quarter by the opponent over the first few frames was a nine-point second period set – not enough to topple the rolling Lancers that afternoon.
Leading 9-3, Silva hit two three-pointers before the completion of the period and when the senior hit the final trifecta of the stanza, Eastern nabbed a 19-8 edge through one quarter of play.
The Lancers offense slowed a bit midway through the second period and when big Cal Redman finally got a basket to fall inside, RHAM trailed by only a 27-17 score but a quick three-point bomb from Silva with 1:13 left in the half put the Lancers ahead at the break by 13 points.
“Aside for maybe a couple minutes where we just got a little careless with our possessions, we went inside out instead of going down and just throwing up shots quick,” said Ray. “When we had a couple ball reversals, we got it in, got it out, and we got good three pointers. When we went down and shot quickly and didn’t score, that was a recipe for disaster.”
“But RHAM didn’t capitalize on our quick shots. Most teams are going to go down and they’re going to score on our [missed, rushed] shots. We have to make sure we maximize our possessions.”
Leading 30-17, Eastern forced a couple three-point attempts to open the third quarter and when Banas scored inside on a lay-up, trimming the Eastern lead to eleven about 1:23 into the frame, Ray called a timeout to settle his troops.
From there, Silva canned another three, Goulet splashed in a hoop and when Dziedzic canned two free throws – leading to a period ending 18-3 run – the Lancers were way ahead in the contest by a 48-22 cushion with eight minutes to play.
“That’s what I was happy with the adjustment we made from last year,” said Ray. “We came out of halftime and all we talked about was taking good shots and then we come out and shoot quickly. And that’s what I was talking about before. We need to control the clock and get good breaks when they’re there but when they’re not there, we need to be able to run and execute.”
“Those quick shots, if they don’t go in, it’s a recipe for disaster but we got the ball to the right person at the right time and they were able to take shots that they could make.”
Eastern stretched that lead out to 31 early in the fourth off two slick jumpers from Dziedzic and a lay-up by reserve Matt D’Amato to make it 54-23 with 5:15 left.
To end the game, Mason canned a hoop, Adam Case went 1-of-2 from the line, and freshman Elijah Parent ended the scoring with two charity shots as the Lancers came away with a big 24 point win.
“Anytime you can open with a win, it’s great for the kids,” said Ray. “It’s a lift, you’re home, and it’s especially good the way we play.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.