By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – There’s no place like home and the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team needed a little home cooking against an athletic Platt squad from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium on Tuesday, Feb. 11. to pull out a win.
And a history making effort from Eastern junior Elijah Parent helped that cause.
Parent scorched the Panthers for a career-high 33 points as the Lancers dropped Platt by a 68-59 final in a CCC South confrontation from Bristol.
Hitting 11-of-21 field goals overall, Parent sank a school record seven three pointers – canning 7-of-10 to snare the record.
But the victory, pushing Eastern to 6-10 overall, put the team just two games away from state tournament qualification with four contests left.
“It feels amazing,” said Parent of the win. “It’s just a huge break for us because we really needed this to get into the tournament.”
Parent’s stat-line also included four rebounds, five assists and four steals over a man-sized effort.
Eastern’s passing game was on point as the team had an amazing 22 assists on 26 baskets as the ball snapped around the court with zest.
Six players etched up three or more assists and that passing propelled the offense.
“That was the emphasis all week,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “Defensively, we made sure we could contain them. They’re going to hit a few threes but they weren’t going to beat us with it [and] make sure we rebound. And on offense, we moved the ball. That ball was moving from one side to the other. Platt’s press opened it up. They tried four different types of presses. Platt got turnovers [22 overall] but we were able to make enough plays.”
To go along with Parent’s offensive outburst, Bryce Curtin nabbed a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds while dishing out three assists in his best all-around effort of the season.
“Curtin, in these last five games when things haven’t been going right, probably has been our hardest worker in practice,” said Ray. “He’s really trying to do everything he possibly can. Now, he’s not going to go out and give you 40 points. But he’s going to go out and give you his best effort.”
And then there was an outstanding 17-minute stint from Tyler Donohue off the bench as he hustled for six points, five rebounds, and a career-high three assists.
He ran after the ball, hustled over his time on the floor and was a pest on the court in the worst possible way for Platt.
“Ty, I think that’s the story of the game,” said Ray of Donohue. “Offensively, it was Elijah but you want to talk about dirty work and energy. There were a couple loose balls we needed to get. He created a couple turnovers for us by knocking balls off Platt players that were loose. He was able to go out and grab balls that were 50/50 and when teams are strong and more athletic, you have to have a will.”
“He’s the one that’s able to go in there and really help us get the ball so we can go down on the offensive end, score the baskets that we needed to put the game away.”
Jordyn Tate zipped up nine points, three rebounds, and three assists; Trini Otero added five points and nine rebounds over another starting effort; Elijah Borgelin collected five rebounds and four assists; Nasir Walker added a lay-up; while Drew Fries saw time off the pine.
The Lancers’ defense held the Panthers (1-15) to just 31.7 percent shooting from the field while forcing 18 turnovers.
Eastern rode out a 10-4 edge to start the game; but off the power of several hoops from Platt’s Tre Carter (26 points, 11 in the first period), the visitors led 12-10 with 2:53 left in the stanza.
To end the first, Tate hit two hoops, including a three, and Otero and Donohue made late baskets as Eastern led 19-15 through one period.
Otero hit a three early in the second quarter and off two consecutive threes from Parent, the Lancers held a 30-21 push with 3:16 left to go in the half.
“That was a positive inside-outside ball movement action,” said Ray. “Our playmaker was finding the ball in open space. [Parent] was knocking down shots. Guys were getting lay-ups, the ball was moving, it was a total team effort with enough touches for Elijah but also with easy baskets as well.”
“I told them [Platt’s] going to make a run against our offense, and that’s what they did, but we were able to get enough stops and enough baskets to keep them away from getting a lead.”
But the Panthers hit six free throws to end the stanza, which chopped their deficit to 32-27 at the half.
The score reached double-figures for Eastern in the third period; but Platt continued to hit critical shots to stay within reach.
A lay-up from Platt’s Anthony Nimoni (11 points) made it a 40-34 game with 3:31 left on the clock in the third before Eastern went on a run thanks to Parent and Curtin.
Parent jammed in two threes and hit a jumper and when Curtin ended the frame with a couple hoops, Eastern’s edge was the biggest of the evening at 52-36.
Platt opened the fourth with a blazing 14-3 run and even as Parent made his record seventh three with 6:04 remaining in the game, the visitors trimmed the deficit to 55-50 with 4:52 left.
“We came out a little slow,” said Parent of the fourth quarter start. “But we kept our composure and were strong with the ball.”
The Kingstreeters quickly rebuilt part of their lead back as Parent hit a baseline jumper, a technical foul on Platt’s Enrique Quintain led to two Parent free throws and off an Otero hoop, the cushion was 11 at 61-50 with 3:21 remaining.
Platt remained pesky for the remainder of the contest but couldn’t get any closer than seven points the rest of the way as Eastern broke its six-game losing streak, keeping its playoff hopes alive with the nine point win over the Panthers.
“We were dead in the water,” said Ray of the road losing streak. “Even before the game, I was talking about competition. We were playing hard but we’re not playing smart all the time. To be honest, we were getting used to losing. We’re not a participation team [about] nice tries and everything else. These are great kids, I get it, but we talked about having some grit and having some pride.”
“We lost a couple close ones and we also got blown out…so to come back after that six game road trip, it helped being back at home.”