By MICHAEL LETENDRE
AVON – Even with a severe injury to a senior member of the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team, the squad battled Avon down to the wire on Saturday, January 5.
The Lancers lost Carter Dziedzic midway through the first period but the outfit from Bristol refused to yield.
In fact, the game was a one possession affair late until Eastern misses, coupled with late Avon baskets, saw the Lancers drop a tough 52-44 decision in Avon.
Eastern fell to 4-3 on the season while Avon improved to 3-2.
Dziedzic was 2-for-2 from the field with five points in five minutes on his way to another big game before getting hurt.
He attempted to come back and even played about thirty seconds during the second period before leaving the game for good.
It caused Eastern to use several line-ups not seen on the varsity level this year.
“We were out of sorts,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “We had guys shuffling in and out at different times. I have to give our kids credit for weathering the storm, especially Jahcyrus who really carried us at the end of the game there.”
Bynum, who survived serious foul trouble in the first half including being assessed a technical, led the Lancers with 16 points, three rebounds, and five assists.
Under the weather, he really stepped up after the Dziedzic injury.
And several other players came to the forefront to make up for Dziedzic’s scoring.
Jordyn Tate played a career-high 28 minutes and contributed 10 points, hitting three 3-pointers, while scooping in five rebounds.
Brendon Gayle added seven points and four rebounds, Bryce Curtin gobbled up eight rebounds, and Dylan Woodsome netted three points and five rebounds.
Ryan Bartkiewicz played a big game for Avon, slipping in a game-high 17 points and canning two 3s and five-of-seven free throws.
“He made some big shots down the stretch but that’s what good players do,” said Ray of Bartkiewicz. “He was able to get some big baskets. We had to extend which I don’t like to do which gave Avon a little more offense but down in a game, that’s what you have to do. You have to extend.”
Jack Hall added 13 points for the Falcons and Will Soucier netted 11 to pace the home squad.
Within the first 89 seconds of the game, Dziedzic netted all five of his points – including a 3 – as Avon fell behind quickly.
It was 7-4 when Dziedzic left the game but a squad consisting of Ben Chiasson, Elijah Parent, Bynum, Tate, and Gayle, held the fort.
Bynum canned a 3, Tate hit a free throw and Matt D’Amato found Gayle for a lay-up as Eastern led 13-6 after eight minutes of action.
Gayle connected on a three-point play with 6:20 left in the second quarter to put the Lancers up 16-11.
But a 6-0 push propelled Avon to a 17-16 lead nearly a minute later.
The edge changed hands six times from there and when Tyler Brokenshire hit two free throws to end the half, the Falcons led 29-27 at intermission.
Avon ramped up its lead to five midway through the third quarter but Bynum jammed in two quick hoops and at the 4:32 mark of the stanza, it was a 32-32 game.
Late in the third, Gayle hit a floater in the lane and Bynum found Tate for a 3 and with eight minutes remaining in the showdown, the contest was tied up at 38-38.
Tate opened the fourth tilt with a three-pointer but Bartkiewicz answered with one of his own and the tit for tat game continued.
Hall and Bynum later exchanged hoops and with 2:54 to play, the scoreboard read 43-43.
“I’m proud of the kids, I’m proud of their effort,” said Ray. “They’re young kids out there and your best player goes down that early in the game and I saw them rally. They could have folded but they didn’t.”
Soucier put the Falcons up for good at 45-43 with two free throws but the Lancers kept on fighting.
With 1:58 to play, Bynum hit the first of two charity tosses but when he missed the second, Gayle nabbed the offensive rebound.
The Lancers missed shots the rest of the way, getting some good attempts at the hoop but could not make a connection.
“If you’re going to have young players in at the end of the game, they’re going to [miss] shots like that, [and] you’ve got to live with it,” said Ray.
Off baskets from Bartkiewicz and Brokenshire – coupled with free throws by Soucier and Bartkiewicz – Avon was able to hold on to win the game by eight points, 52-44.
“I can’t say much more about their effort,” said Ray. “I was very pleased with that. We just have to go to practice to figure out whose going to take what shot now in what situation. Before, we were running on all cylinders because we had flow to our offense. Now, our offense is going to change a little bit but we’ll make those adjustments and move on.”