By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Central/Bristol Eastern boys basketball squads square off on Friday in what should be one heck of a battle.
The Rams have been playing better basketball as of late while a key injury for the Lancers has foiled a 4-2 start of the campaign.
These rivalry games have an amazing ebb and flow to them and this one won’t be any different.
Buckle up, it’s Bristol Central versus Bristol Eastern in a big time bout.
Here’s the deal:
Bristol Central at Bristol Eastern
Time and Location: Friday, January 18 at 6:45 p.m., Bristol Eastern high school (Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium)
The Series between the squads: The Rams lead the all-time series, 67-54. This is the 122nd matchup between the schools. Central swept the series last season, 41-30 and 46-42 from BE.
Players to Watch: Bristol Central –Ryan Rodriguez (sr, forward), Austin Brown (jr, guard), Donovan Clingan (fr, center), D’ante Ross (so, guard), Sean Wininger (so, forward), Royan Buchanan (sr, guard), Shane Ouellette (jr, guard), Damion Glasper (fr, guard), Victor Rosa (fr, guard), Will Almodovar (sr, guard), Nate Rosa (sr, forward); Bristol Eastern – Carter Dziedzic (sr, forward), Jahcyrus Bynum (sr, guard), Bryce Curtin (jr, forward), Trini Otero (so, forward), Dylan Woodsome (so, forward), Ben Chiasson (sr, forward), Isaac Dubay (sr, guard), Jordyn Tate (jr, guard), Drew Fries (so, forward), Matt D’Amato (jr, guard), Brendan Gayle (jr, guard), Elijah Parent (so, guard);
Bristol Central’s Record: The Rams enter the Eastern contest at 3-6, winners of three out of its last five games. Central started the year off at 0-4.
Bristol Eastern’s Record: The Lancers are 4-6, dropping its last four games as the squad waits for the return of the injured Carter Dziedzic. Is tonight the night the senior returns?!?
Why Bristol Central could win: Central has a ‘big’ surprise in the middle.
Well, he’s really not a surprise as Donavan Clingan, a 6-foot-9 freshman, patrols the paint and has been the focal point on offense as well.
He averages a healthy 19.0 points-per-game and is an excellent finisher. And when he doesn’t sink that first shot, he’ll nab offensive rebounds for second and third scoring chances.
In terms of offense, he accounts for 50-percent of the squad’s total field goals, 53-percent of its free throw makes, and scores 41-percent of Central’s points overall.
All this from a 14 year old? Better believe it.
Ryan Rodriguez is the veteran leader on the team, averages 7.1 points and will hit the glass – and the floor for that matter.
He’s the glue that holds the team together.
Junior Austin Brown (5.9 ppg) is getting into the swing of things as the guard has a 13-point game to his credit this year while D’ante Ross is a youngster with a ton of talent, averaging 5.3 points-per-game.
Sean Wininger (3.3 ppg) is an ever-improving sophomore who can hit a 3-pointer or two and will crash the boards while the grouping of Royan Buchanan, Shane Ouellette, Damion Glasper, Victor Rosa, Will Almodovar, and Nate Rosa are all contributors on both sides of the ball.
Why Bristol Eastern could win: Eastern – hopefully – will have the services of senior forward Carter Dziedzic, a 6-foot-4 senior who really is a game-changer on the floor.
And frankly, Dziedzic is truly one of the best players in all the CCC South.
He leads the Eastern squad in points (19.3 per-game), total rebounds (6.7), offensive rebounds, three-point percentage (9-of-25), blocks, and steals.
And when Dziedzic is on the floor, he commands attention which opens things up for his teammates.
Senior point guard Jahcyrus Bynum is the second leading scorer at 12.8 points-per-game and when he heats up, points light up the scoreboard in a hurry.
He dishes off just under four assists-per-game.
Eastern will heavily rely on its roll players and if junior Bryce Curtin (3.8 points, 6.2 rebounds-per-game) can give the same effort in this game as he did against Berlin, the Lancers have a real chance in this one.
The sophomore class has a big responsibility in this showdown against Central including Elijah Parent (4.8 points, 2.9 assists), Dylan Woodsome (3.1 points, 3.7 rebounds), Trini Otero (2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds), and Drew Fries.
Juniors Brendon Gayle (4.4 points, 3.3 rebounds), Jordyn Tate (4.3 points, 2.1 rebounds) and Matt D’Amato are in the mix as well while seniors Isaac Dubay and Ben Chiasson are producing seniors.
If Carter’s crew comes up with big games, Eastern may be getting back to the pay window.
Why Bristol Central could lose: This is a game unlike any that this young core of players have ever been a part of.
Central/Eastern is a different ball game and the lights are even brighter in the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium that night.
Rodriguez has been there and done that so he knows what to expect and the Rams will be leaning on him a little bit extra.
If he gets into early foul trouble, it could be a long night for the Rams.
This team must stay focused and play the full thirty-two minutes.
If that doesn’t happen, an ending like the one from Plainville a couple weeks ago might be in the cards.
And do you play Eastern man or do you force the Lancers to shoot from downtown via a zone defense?
Keep in mind that the Lancers average 6.2 three-pointers per contest .
Plus, if Central scores its usual 46 points-per-game, it might not be enough to topple Eastern (51.5 points-per-game).
Lots to consider…
Why Bristol Eastern could lose: Without a healthy Carter on the floor, this contest is a tough sell for the Lancers.
In three of the four games Eastern has played without Carter, the Lancers have been hanging around in the fourth quarter but all those contests resulted in loses.
And without its seasoned leader, Eastern becomes more of a perimeter squad and low percentage shots don’t lead to wins.
Nine different players have been in the starting line-up this year as the Lancers have tried several different combinations, shuffling people into and out of that starting five.
Eastern coach Bunty Ray might stick with that Berlin crew or change things up with a healthy Carter.
Carter truly is the key here.
And the winner is…This is too close to call.
I want to call it one way if Dziedzic is on the floor for Eastern.
If not, the outcome might be very different and go in Central’s favor.
Either way, this city series battle should be worth the price of admission.