By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball squad didn’t want to the miss the state tournament and sitting on six wins over a grueling 2017-18 campaign, a victory over crosstown rival Bristol Central on Monday, Feb. 12 would help the Lancers get one step closer to postseason play.
And that win came to pass as Eastern turned away Central 45-21 in a Central Connecticut Conference Southern Patriot division encounter from the Charles C. Marsh gymnasium.
Even though Eastern finished the season at 7-13, the squad earned the final spot in the CIAC Class LL state tournament mix as the 32nd seed – qualifying for state tournament play every season since the 1995-96 campaign.
Brien McMahon (6-14) had to win two of its final three games to knock Eastern of the state tournament picture but ended up losing all three of those contests, punching the Lancers’ playoff ticket without the squad from Bristol having to do any work.
The contest against Central (1-19) saw the home team worked hard offensively but Eastern made quick stops, forced turnovers and got into transition for hoops.
“I thought the kids did a great job defensively as a team from the beginning of the game,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “From the first quarter, they played really good defense. We kept [Central] to single digits. I thought it was excellent.”
Eastern once again leaned on its senior backcourt duo of Hannah Maghini and Miranda Janick and in their final Eastern/Central matchup, the teammates combined for 33 points.
Maghini scored a game-high 17 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, and rejected three shots while Janick scooped up 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.
And then defensively, the combination racked up 11 steals between them as Maghini (seven) and Janick (four) led the charge.
“I feel like we really picked it up,” said Maghini of Eastern’s defense. “We worked hard at it in practice and tonight I feel like we really worked as a team on offense and on defense.”
Allison Jessie led Central’s charge with six points while Gwen Torreso added four as the duo nearly notched half of the team’s scoring output.
Ten first period turnovers held the scoring in check as the Rams simply couldn’t get into the flow until late in the fourth frame.
“We turned the ball over too much,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “We couldn’t break their pressure.”
Eastern’s Jordan Ouellette collected four points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals, Avery Arbuckle added two points, three rebounds, and three steals, Karly Martin nabbed five rebounds, while the trio of Sage Scarritt, Maura McGuire, and Cassie Doyon all scored a bucket for the winners.
Eastern didn’t shoot lights-out (36.8-percent) from the field but 18 steals by the squad led to fast-break opportunities, high percentage shots and quick lay-ins.
“We didn’t shoot real well,” said Floyd. “We had a lot of things go in and out but then we picked it up, got a little bit into transition, started making shots and it got us going early in the second quarter I thought. And it got us [into] our flow, got everybody involved. They started executing on offense and transition and got into their secondary break in the offense.”
“I thought they really did a good job in [the second] quarter.”
It took both teams over four minutes to finally tally points on the scoreboard but Maghini canned Eastern’s first seven points of the game and when she found Scarritt for a quick hoop, the visitors led 9-2 with ninety seconds to play in the first period.
That edge lasted into the second tilt and after Torreso canned a jumper to chop the deficit to five, Eastern suffocated Central with its pressing tactics.
The Rams had over a dozen turnovers in the period, Eastern scored 14 straight points, and just about everybody got involved offensively for the Lancers.
To end the run, Janick assisted Ouellette on a hoop, Arbuckle hit a bucket inside and when a lay-up from Maghini found pay dirt, it was a 26-4 game with 1:26 remaining before the half.
“Our press started getting to Central a little bit in the second quarter,” said Floyd. “That was very helpful to get us into transition.”
At the half, the Lancers were firmly in control at 25-6.
In the third quarter, Xia’ian Carrasco and Sarah Guerin canned free throws to chop the deficit to 15 midway through the tilt but Janick canned two consecutive hoops as the Eastern lead was 29-10 with 2:32 remaining in the fray.
“I think altogether, we played as a team and it really showed offensively and defensively,” said Janick. “But we talked on defense and that was a big help.”
Central’s Ashley Watson flipped in a hoop to close out the third quarter but with eight minutes to play, it was a 29-14 game in the Lancers’ favor.
Eastern went back to its defensive press early in the fourth and off a Janick steal and basket, as well as a jumper from Ouellette, the Central deficit was 35-14 with 6:14 to play.
“We picked it up in the fourth quarter for three or four minutes and the game was over,” said Floyd.
With under two minutes to play, Eastern’s Cali Doyon found Maura McGuire for a field goal, Central’s Ideara Gordon splashed in a 3 and when BE senior Cassie Doyon canned a hoop with 35 seconds left for the visitors, the Lancers earned its seventh win of the season, 45-21.
“Eastern played a good game,” said Gaudet. “We turned the ball over too much and didn’t hit too many shots. It wasn’t our night.”