By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Tonight, the Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern girls basketball program clash and the first edition of the city series challenge could look a bit one-sided if records are solely taken into account.
However, even with just one win to their credit, the Rams always seem to make this game a mess as Central head coach Steve Gaudet will throw a couple winkles into the game.
Eastern has shaken off a slow start to the season and will be looking for its fourth victory in a row – leaving the squad one game away from state tournament qualification.
Here’s the deal when Eastern takes on Central on Thursday night:
Bristol Eastern at Bristol Central
Time and Location: Thursday, January 17 at 6:45 p.m. from Bristol Central high school (Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium)
The Series between the squads…The last time the Rams picked off Eastern was back on February 16, 2004. That night, Central earned a 60-57 win (Allison Godbout scored 20 points for the Rams). Since that defeat, the Lancers have beaten the Rams twenty-nine straight times.
Players to Watch: Bristol Eastern – Jordan Ouellette (jr, forward), Ciara Collins (fr, guard), Avery Arbuckle (jr, forward), Paige McLaughlin (sr, guard), Sage Scarritt (so, forward/center), Cali Doyon (so, guard), Meredith Forman (sr, forward), Julia Gettings (sr, guard).
Players to Watch: Bristol Central – Ashley Watson (sr, forward), Allison Jessie (sr, guard), Gwen Torreso (so, guard), Lia Roldan (jr, guard), Kayla Beaulieu (sr, forward), Ella Watson (fr, guard/forward), Erika Santilli (sr, guard), Olivia Darby (so, guard).
Bristol Eastern’s Record: The Lancers are 6-5 but is 6-2 after starting the year out at 0-3. Eastern returned its line-up to full strength about six games ago.
Bristol Central’s Record: The Rams are 1-11 with a win and another near victory against Maloney this year. Central has lost seven straight games since beating the Spartans 57-20 back on December 20.
A quick look at Bristol Eastern: The Lancers are rolling into this game and it’s going to be tough for the Rams to stop that momentum.
This is a very balanced squad, starting with Jordan Ouellette (13.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals-per-game) as she has six double-doubles on the season, including three straight coming into the Central showdown. Ouellette is averaging 18.0 points and 11.7 rebounds-per-game over her last three contests.
She’s been excellent as of late while freshman point guard Ciara Collins (13.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.2 steals-per-game) dropped season-highs of 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against overmatched Middletown this past Tuesday – one assist away from a triple-double.
The first year player is a legit threat on both sides of the ball while forward Avery Arbuckle (6.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.0 blocks-per-game) has been a force in the middle, rebounding well and blocking her share of shots.
Arbuckle has improved her shooting range and that leaves sophomore forward Sage Scarritt (5.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists) room to operate in and around the paint.
Scarritt has been an excellent addition to the starting line-up this year.
And the senior leadership on the team, guard Paige McLaughlin and Meredith Forman, have been leading this team on and off the court.
McLaughlin (4.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.9 steals-per-game) has truly been that jack-of-all trades guard who does a little of everything well for Eastern while Foreman is back and playing off the bench.
Her 4.2 points and 5.6 rebounds-per-game is a huge contribution.
Also from the bench, sophomore Cali Doyon (3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.6 steals-per-game) is the ideal third-guard in the rotation while senior guard Julia Gettings is a blur in motion, always getting her hands on the ball or hitting a timely hoop.
That squad does an excellent passing the ball in and out of the paint for hoops, finding high percentage shots as well but Collins won’t be afraid to shoot the ball from deep.
And the Lancers have been using it’s full-court press as of late, bring back an old tool from Eastern head coach Tony Floyd’s playbook.
Battling Eastern is going to be an epic challenge for Central tonight.
A quick look at Bristol Central: What will Central have in its bag of tricks on Thursday to even the playing field?
The Rams might want to slow this thing down a bit and limit Eastern possessions. It’s been done before with some success.
However, this game will come down to quick runs, a turnover here, or a fast break there by the home squad.
Central needs to do it in small doses because the team will have a hard time rebounding over Eastern’s forwards or trying to dribble past the Lancers’ backcourt.
However, there are players on the court that have been in a Central/Eastern battle over the years.
Central’s Ashley Watson is averaging 6.0 points-per-game and that total leads the squad.
She’ll do a little rebounding and hit an occasional shot from the outside.
Allison Jessie (3.6 ppg) also provides offensive support while sophomore Gwen Torreso (5.8 ppg) is the team’s second leading scorer through 11 games and has a high basketball IQ.
Ella Watson is a talented freshman, averaging 4.5 points-per-game and has been getting the Rams into its offense.
She leads the team at the free throw line with 18 successful makes.
Kayla Beaulieu (4.1 ppg) has some experience while back-ups Lia Roldan played in nine games and can run the offense in a pinch.
Erika Santilli hasn’t missed a game this year while Olivia Darby adds depth to the squad and will hit a hoop or two along the way.
And don’t forget, the team is down a talented player in the form of sophomore Janessa Bartell, recovering from knee surgery.
The squad averages 26.5 points-per-game and that has to almost double to have a chance to topple the Lancers.
You never say never but Central has an uphill battle no matter what team Eastern employs on the floor.
And the winner is…Got to give the nod to Bristol Eastern. The team is playing too well though Central will give it a huge effort.