Girls Basketball: Eastern flips defense to offense for victory over Naugy

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

STAFF WRITER

NAUGATUCK – When a scholastic basketball squad has its transition game working in all phases, the result is some excellent on-court execution.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, the team from Bristol Eastern turned defense into offense in its second round, CIAC Class L contest at Naugatuck over a delightful 69-45 victory – on the road – to move into the quarterfinal round of the fray.

The ninth-ranked Lancers outscored No. 8 Naugatuck 17-2 over the first five minutes of the game, never looking back as missed shots and miscues were quickly turned into points by the visitors.

And when Eastern’s full-court press is working, opponents are forced into several poor decision as the Greyhounds were that evening.

“What helped us in our transition was basically in the first half, the press was working very well,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “We made a lot of turnovers and got a lot of transition points there. In the second half, we really picked it up and filled the lanes and really got into our transitional break at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.”

Everyone contributed for the Lancers (15-8) at various points of the game with Naugatuck (17-7) having to play catch-up the entire 32 minutes of the encounter.

Eastern’s Jordan Ouellette scored 12 of her 16 points over the second half of the showdown while scooping up five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

And the effort of Cali Doyon off the bench nearly netted the Eastern third guard an off-the-bench double-double.

Most of her 12 points came from her career-high nine-steal effort while tallying five rebounds overall – four of those coming off the offensive glass in just the second period alone.

Julia Gettings hit a career-high 10 points – on 5-of-6 shooting from the field – while Avery Arbuckle dropped in six points, five rebounds, three blocks, and three steals over a complete game effort.

“Cali did a great job off the bench today,” said Floyd. “We had foul trouble with a couple other kids but she came in and did a super job. Julia Gettings came off the bench and really sparked us [as did] Arbuckle’s rebounding inside.”

Doyon and Ciara Collins were exchanging lay-ups over the first period of play with the freshmen guard hardly looking like a first-year performer.

Collins flashed in a game-high 19 points and eight assists while swiping three steals and hitting 8-of-12 field goals overall.

“Ciara Collins did a really good job in the first half,” said Floyd. “And she kept her composure in the third quarter and let the game come to her a little bit. She’s come a long way. She’s definitely growing this whole season since it started.”

Sage Scarritt flipped in four points, two rebounds, and two assists while seniors Paige McLaughlin (four assists, four steals) and Meredith Forman (two points, five rebounds) all gave their usual outstanding efforts.

“Meredith Forman did a good job banging inside for us today,” said Floyd. “And I’ve got to give a little credit to Paige McLaughlin as well.”

No one scored in double-figures for the Greyhounds as Alyssa Roberts dropped in nine points for the home team.

Naugatuck managed to grab 30 offensive rebounds but couldn’t cash in on many chances – hitting just 18-of-65 field goals overall for the game.

The team was forced into 28 turnovers and watched the visitors hit numerous lay-ups, canning 32-of-68 shots for a 47-percent shooting clip.

The 32 field goals were a season-high for the Lancers.

“We didn’t do a real good job getting back in transition,” said Naugatuck coach Gail Cheney. “They are a real good team. Tony does such a great job and he’s been around forever. They just came out and played great defense.”

Eastern scored the first nine points of the game while Naugatuck missed its first seven field goals – the first five of which were long three-point bombs.

Then it became a steals-fest between Doyon and Collins and when Doyon made a quick lay-up off a Collins theft, it was a 15-point game in the Lancers’ favor.

A late hoop by Naugy trimmed the deficit to 23-7 after one period of play but the home team was far behind on the scoreboard.

The Lancers hot shooting cooled a bit over the second quarter of play and when Naugatuck’s Alissa McNeil (seven points) canned a jumper with 3:53 left in the period, the margin was chopped to 13 at 31-18.

But late hoops from Arbuckle and Collins saw Eastern sprint to the locker room with a 35-20 lead in hand.

Early in the third tilt, Collins blasted in two three-pointers with her last making it a 41-25 game with 6:22 left to go in the period.

But the Greyhounds remained pesky and when Julia Kropo flipped in a  jumper with 3:12 remaining in the quarter, Eastern was still in charge but by just a 43-31 lead.

However, it was quickly transition time again as the Lancers turned additional steals into buckets and powered by a 10-0 run, a hoop from Ouellette – assisted by Doyon – pushed the Greyhounds’ deficit back out to 22, 53-31, with 31 seconds left in the period.

“We regrouped,” said Floyd. “We weren’t executing and we needed to buckle down a little bit on the boards.”

And then the Lancers salted the contest away with a fourth-period 8-0 run from the starting gate with Ouellette kicking in three straight hoops to extend the lead out to 61-32 with 5:31 to play.

Soon after, Eastern’s Alyssa Kehler, Jessica Levesque, Vanda Horvath, Audra Porowski, Amaya Massari, Rachel Gregory, and Grace D’Amato all got a little playing time to end the tournament showdown with the Lancers headed to the pay window over the 69-45 win.

“We did a great job in the first quarter controlling the boards,” said Floyd. “In the second quarter, Naugatuck started coming and getting some points and attacking us. At the beginning of the third quarter, we really buckled down and did a great job on the boards. We executed offensively and when they threw different stuff at us defensively, we were patient which was great.”

Eastern, playing with house money, took its best shot against Notre Dame-Fairfield on Monday, March 4 – the number one seed in Class L.

Each and every state tournament showdown has given the Lancers invaluable experience against all sorts of competition – including games versus some of the best teams around.

“They’re starting to understand about playing in postseason games,” said Floyd of his squad. “And they’re playing with some confidence. They’ve been in some wars this year especially in the beginning of the season when we were short two players, two starters.”

“The kids have really come around. They’ve gotten more confidence. They’ve developed. They’ve gotten better and that’s all you can ask for right now.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.