By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – For the first time in years, the Bristol Central girls basketball squad was trailing its counterparts from Bristol Eastern by only a single-digit tally in the fourth quarter.
Two free throws by Central’s Sarah Guerin trimmed the deficit to 34-25 with 7:04 left in regulation.
But then, the Eastern defense truly sprang to life, forced consecutive turnovers – leading to a 13-0 run – and never looked back as the Lancers picked up a 49-31 decision from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium on Thursday, Jan. 18 in a Central Connecticut Conference South Patriot showdown.
The win moved Eastern to 5-7 on the campaign while Central (0-12) was still looking for that first victory.
Over the last seven minutes of the game, it was a suffocating defensive display by Eastern to finally knock pesky Central out of contention.
“We had three huge turnovers right away, back to back,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet of the early part of the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Lancers forced 28 turnovers – picking up 16 steals along the way. In the fourth period, those steals were turned into points, quickly making it a double-digit affair.
“Our press started to hurt them a little bit, the zone press,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “[Central] struggled a little bit making decisions and then we took out some of their ball-handlers, denied them the ball and other kids had to handle the ball. That’s when you see them start making a lot of turnovers.”
Eastern’s backcourt duo of Hannah Maghini and Miranda Janick collected a combined 32 points (16 apiece) seven assists and nine steals.
Janick had five of those assists and steals in one her most complete game efforts of the season.
“It was really big because we’ve been preparing for a while,” said Janick of beating Central. “We try not to, like, get our hopes up or anything. We try to go out there and play just as hard as every other game.”
In fact, it was Janick’s offense that got kept that 13-0 run going as she canned a quick jumper and dropped in a 3 in consecutive fashion.
“We started to hit some shots,” said Floyd of the run. “Miranda really hit some key shots. She hit a couple 3s and a couple other shots. And then, everything started to flow.”
Jordan Ouellette added six points, six rebounds and four assists, Paige McLaughlin slipped in five points and two rebounds, and starting center Avery Arbuckle hauled in five rebounds for the Lancers.
Cheyenne Sargent swiped four steals and Cassie Doyon netted a career-high four points.
Sage Scarritt, Karly Martin, Cali Doyon, and Maura McGuire all made contributions to the winning effort.
Guerin and Allison Jessie each posted nine points apiece while Ashley Macdonald added five points for Central.
“Senior leadership. She played well,” said Gaudet of Guerin. “She handled the pressure pretty well tonight. I was very happy with her. Ashley Macdonald came in and gave us some huge minutes defensively, [hit] a couple hoops. The kid’s a soccer player. She never played basketball before she got here and she’s out here competing at a big event like this.”
Gaudet had his players stick to Maghini over the full 32 minute affair, keeping the senior standout a couple points off her season average with some physical defense.
“Our defense played well,” said Gaudet. “I think our defense played very well. We definitely frustrated them in the second half with the diamond-and-one [defense] we put on Maghini. I thought our intensity was outstanding on the defensive end.”
“It’s just been the story all year. We turn the ball over too much.”
The Lancers shot just 28-percent from the field over the first half of play and that allowed the Rams to hang around in the game.
“The whole game, we were not consistent with our shots, not getting second or third shots,” said Floyd. “[Central] did a great job rebounding. They just gave us one shot.”
Eastern ran out to an 8-2 edge to start the game but Central marched to the free throw line 10 times over the first eight minutes of the showdown, making some while missing other attempts – keeping it a single-digit affair after eight minutes of action.
Trailing just 14-6 after one period of play, the Rams continued to hit the free throw line and kept the deficit manageable.
Maghini later kicked in two threes as she personally went on an 8-2 run and her last trifecta of the half propelled the Lancers to a 24-10 edge with fifty seconds left.
Central ended the half hitting 3-of-6 free throws as the outfit trailed just 24-13 at the break.
“Counting the one-and-one’s we didn’t get, we shot eight-for-21 or 22 in the first half,” said Gaudet of his team’s foul shooting. “It was an 11-point game. You make your free throws, that’s a whole other ballgame.”
Both squads scored 10 points over the third period of play and when Ashley Watson and Guerin hit lay-ups to close out the stanza, the game remained an 11-point contest at 34-23.
Ahead by nine early in the fourth, Ouellette kicked in a lay-up while Maghini cashed in a steal for a hoop before Janick’s five straight points made it a 43-25 deficit with 5:40 to play.
“That was the turning point right there,” said Gaudet. “That put us over the hump where we probably weren’t going to come back.”
To end the Eastern run, Cassie Doyon (four points) banked in a hoop and when Maghini hit another jump-shot, it was quickly a 47-25 game and Central was down and out.
To end the event, Macdonald canned a lay-up and Ideara Gordon scored the final four points as Eastern wrapped up a 49-31 win.
“[We] can’t make free throws, [we] can’t make shots and we turn the ball over too much,” said Gaudet. “But they work hard. They give me everything they got. They bust their tails on the defensive end. They work as hard as they can. We just can’t buy one right now.”
The win led the Lancers to one of its biggest games of the season and another shot at the squad from Plainville (8-3) two days later in Bristol.
“It’s been hard to get in a rhythm,” said Floyd. “We had a day off [the previous Wednesday], didn’t shoot, didn’t play anything so it will be nice to get practice in [Friday] when we play Plainville. That will be a really good game on Saturday. That game is the league game. If we beat them, we tie for the league and that will be a really good game.”
NOTES…Eastern defeated Plainville 56-45 this past Saturday to move to 6-7 on the season. Janick hit for 17 points in the winning effort.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.