By MICHAEL LETENDRE
MIDDLETOWN – Every victory for the Bristol Eastern girls basketball is critical in improving its Class L playoff standings – attempting to avoid trips to places like New London, where the Lancers lost in the postseason during the 2018 fray.
That’s why Eastern’s tough 65-61 overtime loss at Middletown on Thursday, Jan. 31 hurts more than a little bit.
Eastern was leading in that contest 40-29 late in the third period. But an 8-0 Blue Dragons run trimmed the deficit to three before Paige McLaughlin found Sage Scarritt for a buzzer-beating three-pointer to make it a 43-37 game through three quarters.
But that lead fell apart via a 11-4 burst; after just a few minutes to play, Middletown led 48-47 – its first lead of the game since coming out of the gate 4-0.
However, that lead changed hands three times from there as a big three by Ciara Collins and an offensive rebound by Avery Arbuckle – leading to an eventual hoop – put Eastern back in charge at 54-50.
But a 5-0 run catapulted Middletown back in front, 55-54 with 1:23 left in regulation.
Eastern couldn’t answer; but an offensive foul on the Blue Dragons saw the Lancers regain the ball and eventually, Cali Doyon earned two free throws.
She made one, missed the other, but at 55-55, Middletown was fouled with 5.9 seconds left – leading to a one-and-one situation.
Middletown’s Mackenzie Dunn missed the front end, a late three-point bomb by Collins missed the mark and the teams headed for overtime, all knotted up at 55-55.
Jordan Ouellette started the extra four minutes with a hoop; but the Blue Dragons answered with seven straight points – propelling the home team to a 62-57 edge it would not relinquish again.
Eastern fell by four in the end.
Scarritt had one of her best all-around scholastic efforts ever as she dropped in a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds.
She also added four assists, a couple blocks, and four steals in a complete game effort.
Ouellette led Eastern with 18 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
Collins netted 12 points, four rebounds, five assists, and five steals; while Doyon captured six points, five rebounds, three assists, and five steals off the bench.
McLaughlin added six points, three rebounds, and three assists; Arbuckle collected four points, nine rebounds, and rejected six shots; while Meredith Forman had four points over the effort.
Balanced scoring led the Blue Dragons as Dominique Highsmith dropped in 14 points; Kaya Mayo kicked in nine free throws on her way to 13 points; Mackenzie Dunn added 12; and Shandae Bushay also scored in double-figures with 10.
Tyah Pettaway added eight points and Mackenzie Dunn had six for Middletown.
The Lancers led big to start the game; nabbing a 16-5 lead; and held a 27-20 push at the half.
Middletown made it a two-possession game midway through the third frame; but Collins canned two free throws and jammed in a 3 as Eastern rebuilt the lead to 38-27 – one of two double-figure advantages over the third period.
In the end, it was a big four-point triumph for the Blue Dragons – moving to 10-6 on the season.
But one day later, the Lancers took out a little of its frustration on Maloney from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol.
The Spartans didn’t mount much offense against the Lancers, falling 51-24 as home squad moved to 9-7 overall.
Ouellette led the charge with 14 points; Collins scored 11; while Arbuckle canned eight to get Eastern back to the pay window.
Scarritt notched six, Forman slipped in four while Amaya Massari added a career-high five points – draining a 3-point in the process.
Courtney Ubaike scored a team-high six for Maloney (2-14).
Eastern took an 11-4 advantage after one period of play and – via a 19-3 second frame romp – led 30-7 when the halftime buzzer sounded.
NOTES…As of Friday, Feb. 1, Eastern was ranked 13th in the Class L playoff standings. The Lancers had three games left against teams that carried 10-or-more wins and Bristol Central to end the season.