By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – By the halfway mark of the campaign for the girls basketball squad at Bristol Eastern, the team was truly on a roll.
Winners of nine out of its first 10 games, the Lancers took care of business early against Plainville on Thursday, Jan. 15 in a make-up contest against their CCC South foe.
The Lancers jumped out to a 9-0 start, letting defense lead to offense, and never let up as Eastern defeated the Blue Devils 68-32 from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium.
“I’m really pleased that we’re working on our defense and established ourselves early,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “Playing good defense, hitting the boards, which is where we get into our transition and that was a big key. We really did a nice job in getting second and third shots, too, and we really haven’t been doing that in the first half of the season.”
Daijia Brooks dominated early and often – canning 20 of her game high 36 over a suffocating first period of play – and later, she kept everyone involved with her slick pin-point passing that led to four assists.
She also tallied 12 rebounds, two blocks, and swiped three balls in another superior all-around display.
“She was hot today,” said Floyd of Daijia Brooks. “When someone’s hitting very well, and I told [the players] this the other day, you sort of look for that kid a little bit and go back to them. It’s not saying that somebody’s a gunner or something like that and I think you need to understand that somebody just has it and somebody doesn’t have it and they’re starting to recognize that.”
Diana Wunk showed some grit as well, popping in eight points and four rebounds and while foul trouble limited Kianna Brooks to just about 10 minutes of game action, her six points and seven rebounds spoke volumes about a possible big night she could have enjoyed for Eastern.
The duo of Jamilla Shoultz (3 rebounds, 4 assists) and Gianna D’Amato (7 points, 2 assists) scooped up steal after steal as suffocating defense ruled the day for the Lancers.
Overall, the backcourt combo netted 12 steals and to their credit, had five turnovers on the evening as Eastern protected and took care of the basketball.
“We’re doing a better job not turning the ball over,” said Floyd. “I think understanding in the transition, better passes, filling lanes better and being patient in our zone offense is key.”
Eastern only had eight turnovers at the half and rang up 41 points by the break.
And then in terms of contributions, several players off the pine for the Lancers left their marks over game play.
Miya Laprise collected seven points, three rebounds, and three assists; while teammate Jillian LeBeau had two steals and did a solid job filling in the front-court when Kianna Brooks was saddled with fouls.
Everyone got a chance to play as Miranda Janick (2 points), Hannah Maghini (2), Anna Kelley, and Brooke Dauphinee (2) all earned time on the hardwood.
Plainville (4-6) was pesky throughout the encounter and while the squad put together some quality stretches on the floor, there simply weren’t enough of them to dent into the imposing lead.
A bit undermanned from the start, Stephanie Martino (8 points) battled for everything she got as did Milan Lauray (6).
Deja Samuel found it tough going under the hoop but still managed to hit a couple hoops inside for eight points while the ever-improving Taleah McCrorey hit for seven in the losing effort.
The problem for the Blue Devils was Eastern’s intense defense and Daijia Brooks simply attacked the hoop early and often for points.
In fact, the elder Brooks notched 13 of her squads first 15 points as Plainville trailed by 11 at 15-4 with 3:43 left to go in the first quarter.
Plainville responded with a 6-2 run as two free throws by McCrorey cut the deficit to 17-10 with 1:53 left in the stanza.
But the Lancers ended the frame with a blistering 10-1 push.
The run was started by a Laprise three and ended with a Daijia Brooks trifecta – hitting the last of her career-high three three-pointers – as Eastern led 27-11 after one.
Things only got tougher to open the second for Plainville as the Lancers used an 8-0 jaunt, which included a sweet floater in the lane by D’Amato – to etch up a 35-11 lead with 4:35 remaining in the half.
The Blue Devils hit just three free throws over the second frame and by intermission, with several reserves already in the game for the Lancers, Eastern’s halftime cushion was 41-14.
Plainville notched the first point of the second half via a free throw from McCrorey; but quickly, the Lancers’ offense went right back to work.
Off a 9-0 run, Daijia Brooks flipped in two charity shots; D’Amato canned a three; Wnuk cashed in on an offensive rebound and to top it all off, it was Daijia Brooks again and from a nifty pass by D’Amato, her lay-in made it a 50-15 game with 4:22 left in the stanza.
Lauray hit two late hoops for Plainville; but by the completion of three quarters, Eastern was on top 54-23.
And to top it all off, the Lancers started the fourth on a 12-0 jaunt, started by a basket from Daijia Brooks; and finished off via an offensive rebound and put-back by Kianna Brooks. With 3:46 left, Eastern’s tally reached 66-23.
Martino and McCrorey canned back-to-back threes late in the fray but in the end, the Blue Devils fell by a 68-32 final.
“I see them getting better and better,” said Floyd of his squad. “Our communication needs to get a little bit better and our transition defense has got to get a little better. And we’re working on it. We’re getting better and better on certain things and that’s the key.”
NOTES…Daijia Brooks ended the game with 34 points and now has 1,089 points for her career, moving into seventh place overall in city scoring history – passing Bristol Central’s Karin Przygocki (1066). Over her last two games, she pumped in 74 total points – including a school record 40 against Maloney back on Tuesday, Jan. 13, and needs just 45 points to catch Ginny (Ziogas) Torreso.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE