By MICHAEL LETENDRE
WATERTOWN – In its first non-conference game of the campaign, the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team found itself in the first of three Central Connecticut Conference versus the Naugatuck Valley League battles this year on Thursday, Dec. 27.
And round one went to the Lancers.
The Lancers took the lead for good in the contest behind a huge 23-point second quarter effort, eventually taking the game by a 58-47 final from the Robert B. Cook Memorial Gymnasium in Watertown.
“We show flashes of doing a lot of [good] things. We just have to do it for a whole game,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “That just shows you what they’re capable of. I think the ball was moving, shots were going down, people were feeling good on the defensive end, and that’s what it comes down to.”
“For us, it’s making shots and doing the little things that we need to do.”
And the visitors made some huge shots, including nine three-pointers that chased away the zone defense the Indians were trying to employ.
But the home squad cleaned the glass from start to finish as Watertown ramped up 23 offensive rebounds, and that meant second and third chances at the hoop.
David Aquavia led the squad with 13 points while Camden Garcia chipped in 12.
“I give them credit,” said Ray of Watertown. “The scouting report says they are going to throw [the ball up] and they’re going to run to the glass. That’s not an overly skilled team but that’s a team that plays with a lot of energy, a lot of heart. I didn’t expect anything less and they were able to go in and control the glass.”
“That was the one thing, we didn’t rebound as a team like we should have where we could have stopped some of that damage.”
Carter Dziedzic had a whale of a game for Eastern, connecting on 11-of-15 field goals for 24 points to go along with seven rebounds while blocking three shots – one of his career high.
Jahcyrus Lawrence-Bynum was just a few assists short of a triple-double as he roped up 11 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals while teammate Elijah Parent also dished out seven assists.
Trini Otero snared four points and two rebounds off the bench, Bryce Curtin added three points and four rebounds while starter Dylan Woodsome grabbed three rebounds to lead the Lancers.
But the biggest contributor of the evening was reserve Jordyn Tate as he canned four-of-six three-pointers for a varsity career-high of 12 points.
“And once again, on our team, there’s certain guys that do certain things well,” said Ray. “Jordyn is a zone buster. He went in there and he did some great things on the offensive end. You can see he can make shots and that’s what we need. We’re a team, we need some energy, that’s his role on the team and he filled his roll nicely.”
“In fact, he filled it very nicely.”
There were six lead changes over the first quarter alone but an offensive rebound and put-back by Carter, coupled with two Lawrence-Bynum charity tosses, gave Eastern a 17-14 edge through one completed stanza.
And in the second quarter, Eastern looked like it was at NBA All-Star weekend as the squad dropped in 7-of-11 three-pointers and when Tate canned his third of the period, it was a 38-25 lead for the Lancers with 1:34 before intermission.
Eastern led by 13 at the half and when Carter flipped in a lay-up thirty seconds into the third quarter, the cushion reached 42-27.
But the Lancers did not score again in the period as a 12-0 Watertown run, capped by a leaner from Garcia and a Matt Hardisty (six points) free throw, and the Indians trailed by just a 42-39 score with eight minutes to play.
“We’re on the road and, once again, we made some poor choices,” said Ray. “We missed some lay-ups. Sometimes the other team comes in and makes shots. We just went cold offensively [but] we were able to come back.”
Then, the Eastern defense picked up as Watertown’s offense started to sputter.
The Lancers went on an 11-3 spurt and when Dziedzic found Otero for a hoop, it was a 53-42 game with 1:35 to play.
From there, Eastern slowed things down, Watertown was only able to get within nine points the lead and eventually bowed out 58-47 to fall to 0-3 on the season.
“[We] executed down the stretch,” said Ray. “I think the tempo of the game in the fourth quarter pulling them out of that zone and making them play us man-to-man, I think that was helpful. We need to exploit our match-ups in that situation.”