By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – After a tough five-point loss to Watertown the previous evening, what would the response from the Bristol Eastern boys team be against Platt just twenty-four hours later?
How about a slick 57-50 CCC South Interdivisional victory over Platt in a make-up game from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium on Saturday, December 30?
Eastern (3-1) got contributions from all seven players who took the floor that night and off the power of that mostly senior line-up, Eastern took a lead into the fourth period of play – and kept it to the end.
“[We had] intensity, focus, togetherness…all the things that were missing yesterday [against Watertown] showed up today,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “And that’s what seniors do though. I have all seniors out there and we talked before the game. We talked about what was necessary and they knew yesterday they didn’t put the effort in and we were out of character and out of sorts.”
“I asked them after the game what are we going to do, what type of team are we going to be because we’re only on game four of the season. What kind of season are we going to have? They answered the bell.”
Nate Silva zipped in 16 points and collected five rebounds, Mac Goulet added 12 points and posted a career best 18 rebounds, Tyler Mason nabbed a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with five points, and Cam Tate added six rebounds and four assists to the winning endeavor.
And then there was the bench efforts from Ariza Kolloverja and Matt D’Amato.
Kolloverja kicked in 10 points in 13 minutes to go along with four rebounds – both career high marks – while D’Amato had his best game in an Eastern uniform with a sterling seven-point, four-rebound effort.
“You need to make shots,” said Ray. “You need to get something. We needed to go to our bench and make plays and that’s what they did. Let’s face it, we had a game plan tonight on how to defend Platt. But at the other end, guys have to make plays. There was no magic out there. It was an open floor with pressure for thirty-two minutes, they had to make the reads and plays and those aren’t things we’re usually good at.”
And then Jake Lafferty, again filling in at forward/center, posted six points and eight rebounds, battling more athletic and quicker athletes from Platt but more than holding his own.
“Lafferty was amazing today on the boards, grabbing loose balls and Cam Tate was all over the floor,” said Ray. “Mac and Tyler, everybody [did their part]. There were hustle plays coming from D’Amato…I can’t say enough about what was going on out there. Silva was getting his hands on some loose balls.”
“The biggest thing is we didn’t give it back. We backed up, we saw the reversals, and we didn’t panic.”
Platt’s defense forced seventeen Eastern turnovers but more often that not, the Lancers beat the press and had plenty of good looks at the hoop.
“I thought we took care of the ball under duress,” said Ray. “We might have had a few turnovers but I’ll tell you what, that’s going to happen in a game like that. I was proud of what we were able to do. Playing last night and then coming back and having to play under that pressure for thirty-two minutes, it was key to go to the bench. Those guys and their minutes, rotating guys around to catch their breath, was important.”
Defensively, Eastern was sharp and allowed the Panthers to shoot – and miss – from long range all evening long.
Overall, Platt hoisted up 36 three-point bombs, connecting on just four of those attempts, while shooting under 27-percent for the game.
Eastern also out-rebounded Platt, 56-41 due to those struggles from deep.
“For us, it was a matter of playing position and rebounding,” said Ray. “We were going to give up three-pointers and some of them, I told them, I didn’t even want to contest some of them which is awkward because we always talk about getting out to shooters. We scouted them a couple times and they struggled for the perimeter. They’re going to make a few and if you’re going to live by the jumper, you’re going to die by it. I was going to take our chances with that.”
“But the thing that we weren’t going to change to was with help and the box-out position. We were able to clean up the boards pretty good today.”
Tre Carter was sharp for Platt (0-6) as he canned 23 points, going 10-of-11 from the charity stripe.
However, no other player scored more than eight points for the visitors.
The game was afoot quickly as both teams rolled out a 14-14 stalemate just one period into things.
However, over the second frame, Eastern used a 20-5 run to build a bit of a cushion.
Kolloverja canned two big 3-pointers, Silva added one of his own and when D’Amato put up one more trifecta on the scoreboard, the home team’s edge reach 34-23 with 1:53 remaining before the half.
Eastern saw its 34-25 halftime lead completely erased behind a 9-0 outburst by Platt as the contest was all tied up at 34-34 with 5:47 left in the quarter.
But Eastern showed poise and grit and off a 10-2 run – highlighted by two blistering 3’s from Silva – the home team went up 44-36 with eight minutes to go.
Platt’s defense remained pesky as the contest became a free throw shooting affair with both squads making and missing attempts.
And then one of the best sequences of the contest came to pass with Eastern clinging to a 48-46 lead with 2:53 left.
Goulet and Mason connected on back-to-back hoops and Lafferty drew a charge to wipe out a Platt basket.
And when D’Amato canned a free throw with 1:11 remaining, Eastern was ahead by three scores – leading 53-46.
But the Panthers trimmed the deficit to 53-50 with 36.8 seconds on the clock before fouling Goulet twice, hoping the senior would miss a couple attempts.
But Goulet calmly hit four consecutive free throws to ice the contest as Eastern earned a hard-fought seven-point win over a scrappy Platt squad.
“We just have to keep moving forward to those eight wins, however we can get them,” said Ray. “If we can play like that and when [Carter Dziedzic] comes back, we’re only going to get better. I just need to continue to see guys step up, and continue to improve.”
“I saw some kids grow up. Although they’re seniors, there’s not a whole lot of experience. So them going out there and handling that only four games in, I was pretty proud of them.