By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Wolcott boys basketball team was not ready for what the squad from Bristol Central was about to unleash during the fourth quarter of its latest encounter on Wednesday, Dec. 27.
After the Eagles scored the first basket of the final tilt – cutting their deficit to 46-35 with 7:45 left in the contest – the Rams went on a blazing game-ending run.
A 29-3 burst completely knocked Wolcott out of contention as Central rolled up its first win of the campaign by a 75-38 final in the first round of the Bristol Central Holiday Tournament from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium in Bristol.
The win propelled the Rams (1-2) to the championship round and a date against undefeated East Lyme (4-0), a 56-39 victor over last year’s champion, South Windsor. Due to the New Year’s holiday, the results from the final game were not known as of press time.
Central smothered Wolcott defensively and when the squad failed to connect on hoops, five players were running in the opposite direction, leading to easy lay-ups and successful makes from long range.
“We got some stops and then we got into transition,” said Central coach Tim Barrette. “I don’t know what our assist totals were in the second half, but I said to our guys I think we assisted on nearly every basket we scored in the second half. And we attacked the glass and that was the other thing. We decided to finally enforce our will with our 6-foot-4 guys.”
“We have three of them pretty much on the floor at all times.”
The Eagles (1-2) showed some grit, were physical and pesky at times – especially over the first three quarters of play – but couldn’t match that tall line-up as Jaekwon Spencer (23 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, two blocks), Alex Bernier (eight points, eight rebounds) and enforcer Alex Lape (eight points, 10 rebounds – four offensive) easily controlled the glass for the home team.
And frankly, Wolcott didn’t have an answer for Spencer in the second half as he finished in the lane and hit from the outside, displaying his all-around game.
He was also an invaluable conduit on the fast break, setting up his mates for easy buckets when he wasn’t scoring.
“Jaekwon got off early in the second half,” said Barrette. “It kind of just fed from there and once you have to start collapsing on him and he starts passing the ball, we have guys who are capable of scoring. Our bigs down low did a good job.”
And then over that fourth period run, Central’s Noah Plantamaro played like he was ready for the NBA All Star Weekend 3-point shooting challenge.
He went a smooth 4-for-4 from 3-point range in just under a four-minute stretch of the final period as his last made three with 3:38 to play in the game turned the contest into a 64-36 blowout.
Overall, he canned a career-high 14 points in the winning effort.
“All our rule is for Noah is to keep shooting,” said Barrette. “[Just] keep shooting. When he’s on, it’s fun to watch.”
Isaiah Miller (five points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals) is rounding into basketball shape nicely while Ryan Rodriguez (five points), Justus Fitzpatrick (five points), Austin Brown, and Brett Kempton (five rebounds, three assists) all provided support over the winning effort.
The Rams led by as many as 14 in the second frame but could not hold on to the double-figure edge.
Off a three-point play by Spencer with 1:45 to go in the first half, Central led it 28-14 but a 6-0 Wolcott run to end the stanza, powered by four free throws from Chris Harris, made it just an eight-point game at intermission (28-20).
“They hit eight free throws in the first half,” said Barrette of Wolcott. “That kept them in the game. I told [my guys] ‘I didn’t think they can score if you didn’t foul.’ And we had them trapped and we didn’t need to foul. Those were bad fouls. We should have been up more than eight at the half. We should have been up by fifteen.”
“We went into halftime, we made some corrections, came out, we got Jaekwon off early and the next thing you know, we played some good defense in the second half.”
Jack Dewey led Wolcott with 11 points, doing a little dirty work in the paint, but no other player from the visitors notched a double-figure scoring total.
Four lead changes highlighted the affair early but Central used an 8-0 run to close out the first frame as a three by Miller, a conventional three-point play from Rodriguez and a hoop by Fitzpatrick propelled the Rams to a 14-6 lead after eight minutes.
Central used a 14-8 min-run to capture that 14-point second period edge but those Wolcott free throws kept the visiting unit in the thick of things, trailing by just a 28-20 push at the break.
Spencer then scored the first seven points of Central’s 9-0 third period run to capture a 37-20 cushion with 6:22 left in the period.
But Wolcott did just enough to keep the deficit at arm’s length and when Michael Tessarzik hit a three-pointer with 1:48 to go in the third, it was just a 44-33 game as Central couldn’t shake the visiting squad.
In the fourth, Dewey hit one of the two field goals Wolcott scored in the frame 15 seconds into things before Central’s up-and-down pace proved to be too much for the Eagles to handle.
“We outscored them by 25 points,” in the fourth quarter said Barrette. “There was great energy tonight by my guys.”
Late in the game, Will Almodovar canned five straight points for the home team and when Royan Buchanan drained the final basket of the contest, Central was headed to the finals of its own tournament via the 37-point triumph.
Central is starting to put it all together and even though its last game, a home date against Maloney, was snowed out, the Rams are eager to get on the court and compete against the best the Central Connecticut Conference has to offer.
“What [stunk] was we got snowed out and we had our two best practices of the year last Wednesday and Thursday,” said Barrette. “It’s been hard to get a rhythm in practice because of the snow days. Hopefully, we’ll use this tonight. We have a 4-0 East Lyme team on Friday night, so we’ll have to have a good practice tomorrow.”
“Hopefully, we can win our own holiday championship.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.