By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball team continued its dominance in city series play against Bristol Central on Monday, Feb. 18.
And the Lancers used its suffocating full-court defense along with its transition offense to snare their 12th straight victory, besting the Rams by a 63-46 final in a CCC South, Patriot Division confrontation from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium on the campus of Bristol Central.
Eastern moved to 15-4 overall with one game to play the following day against East Catholic to complete regular season play.
Central (6-13) wasn’t able to score early as Eastern’s defense and transition game propelled the visitors a 19-0 lead with just under three minutes to play in the first quarter.
It was catch-up from that point on for the Rams.
“You can’t spot them” 19 points, said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “They’re so talented and big inside and awesome. You can’t spot them any type of lead and hope to compete.”
Eastern’s Ciara Collins was on fire for stretches of the showdown, netting 13 of her game-high 27 points in the third period.
Her five threes led the squad while she also contributed seven rebounds to the winning effort.
Senior Jordan Ouellette was saddled with early foul trouble but scored all of her 14 points over a stretch of 12:38 in the first half while collecting eight rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
Avery Arbuckle brought the defense as well, grabbing eight rebounds, while blocking two shots. She scored four points in her final regular season games against Central.
Cali Doyon netted 12 points, four rebounds, and eight steals in Eastern’s smooth up-and-down game while Sage Scarritt zipped up five points, eight rebounds, and a team-high six assists.
Alyssa Kehler and Taigan Parent each nabbed four rebounds, Janessa Gonzalez added two boards while Alex Shorette notched the only point scored from the reserves via charity shot.
And defense was the first, middle, and last thing Eastern was thinking about for thirty-two minutes against Central.
“It really was, especially in our press,” said Collins about the defense. “Those easy steals give us added [offense]. Our defense is always key.”
The Rams missed 15 of 21 field goals in the first half while the Lancers forced eight Central turnovers over the first 3:30 of the showdown.
But Central showed signs of life throughout the game.
Sophia Torreso scored all 19 of her points over the final 23 minutes of the contest while Ella Watson added nine.
Nadia Riemer scored five of her eight points over the first period while Laney Maher got the start for the Rams – scoring five points.
Arbuckle started the game off with a jumper, Ouellette went a neat 4-for-4 from the field, Doyon made a steal and quickly hit a lay-up and off five points from Collins – including a banked-in three-pointer – the Kingstreeters were ahead 19-0 with 2:58 to go in the first frame.
“We wanted to dictate the tempo and wanted to focus on what we wanted to play and basically, we like to get into transition and try to control the boards,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “We’ve been doing a better job at that. We’ve really improved on hitting the boards. Sage Scarritt and Arbuckle have really been getting nine to 10 rebounds a game and we’re getting good contributions from our forwards with Ouellette and Collins crashing the boards.”
Eastern led 25-5 through one quarter and midway through the second stanza, Doyon cashed in on another steal, Scarritt banked home a 3 from the top of the key and with 5:23 left before the break, the Lancers snared a 32-11 edge.
“I thought our defense did a really good job, especially in the first half,” said Floyd. “They were focused, they did a good job calling screens, getting through screens, things like that. They gave Central one shot at the basket.”
After Central’s Janessa Bartell connected on two free throws with 2:02 remaining in the second period, Ouellette hit two straight field goals and Collins drained a 3 to end the first half with the visitors in charge at intermission by a 48-20 push.
“Credit to them,” said Gaudet of Eastern. “They have a legitimate chance to win a state championship. They’re a great team.”
And after a quiet start to the third period, Eastern zipped up 15 points over the final 4:20 of the frame to make it a 31-point spread to end the quarter.
“It’s been key for us to get into transition and Cali pushing the ball up and them filling lanes and when they do get up and down, they’re tough,” said Floyd of his team. “They get to that block, finish, and [get to] the high post for shots.”
“I’m very pleased about how they are doing. They’re getting more consistent at it.”
Scarritt and Gonzalez found Collins for three-point bombs near the end of the third and when Collins kicked in a foul line jumper to end the scoring for the Lancers, Eastern was firmly in charge – leading by a 63-32 push with eight minutes to play.
“That’s also really key, like moving the ball around, sharing it, and it helps us work as a team,” said Collins of Eastern’s passing. “We’re spreading the ball around and everyone is scoring.”
Eastern never scored in the fourth quarter as Central outscored the Lancers 14-0 to end the contest.
Sophia Torreso dropped in seven points in the tilt, Watson hit a three, Riemer canned one final shot, and off two free throws by Domani Hough, the youngsters finished the contest strongly but still fell 63-46 in the end.
But even in the loss, Gaudet sees a bright future for his program that also includes a state tournament appearance come next month for a little added experience.
“Notice tonight there wasn’t any senior night,” said Gaudet of Central’s final home game. “I have no seniors so everyone is coming back. I have a young, young team that, hopefully, they can learn from these things and get better. We’ve got one more game still [and] we’re going to the state tournament.”
“Hopefully, we don’t see [Eastern] again because there’s a legit chance that can happen [in postseason play].”