By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the postseason came calling for the three scholastic boy hoops squads to start March, Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, and St. Paul were ready for several stern challenges.
And there were certainly some tough first round tests for all three teams to face and conquer.
Two squads fought admirably but didn’t make it out of the first round while the other seized an impressive victory and snared a little revenge in the process.
Bristol Central entered the Class LL bracket as the No. 23 team in a very challenging field and gave No. 10 Bridgeport Central a run for its money while in the Class L frame, Bristol Eastern – No. 26 – gave No. 7 Maloney all sorts of trouble that put the game in doubt midway through the final period of play.
Finally in Class S action, No. 15 St. Paul avenged an early season loss by turning back No. 18 Thomaston 59-52 and hung around against second-seeded Classical Magnet before eventually losing by seven to end a very impressive season.
Two players from Central earned the nod on the postseason first team as junior forward Jake Collins and junior point-guard Joey DeFillippi each made the squad.
Along those lines, both gave the Hilltoppers fits throughout the showdown.
Offensively, Collins was strong – leading the Rams with 15 points – while also being a pest on the glass as he nabbed 15 rebounds with 13 of those coming on the defensive end.
He also dished out five assists and even blocked a shot against Bridgeport.
Collins struggled a bit on defense end but the Hilltoppers kept the pressure on for 32 minutes and that made things tough for the entire Bristol Central squad.
But inside the paint, Collins proved to be a tough forward to top and his 15 points were critical in the Rams hanging around the game.
In the backcourt, DeFillippi had his hands full with those quicker Hilltopper guards but, per his usual, he picked his spots, found open targets, threw in a few three-pointers, and even did a credible job hitting the boards.
For the game, DeFillippi drained three three-pointers, snared five rebounds, and only committed two turnovers in the contest.
He scored nine points, directed the traffic very well on the court, and DeFillippi certainly gave Bristol Central a real shot at an upset.
Both Collins and DeFillippi will be back next season to take one more stab at a postseason berth.
Eastern needed to do a little work to earn a favorable tournament birth and the Lancers got a better seed thanks to a career best effort by senior Ryan Chiasson.
In fact, off Chiasson’s career high 24 points in a win against Middletown, Eastern rose up the Class L rankings by earning its ninth victory of the year and that meant a date with familiar date against Maloney.
And Chiasson and company gave the Spartans all it could handle, making it a one-possession game midway through the final period to gum up the works for Maloney.
Chiasson hit shots from inside, outside and everywhere between, ending his final game with a contest high of 22 points, eight rebounds, and three assists.
He nailed 9-of-17 field goals, hitting four free throws and played the entire 32 minutes of action.
The effort was one heck of a way to end his career for the Lancers and it was certainly a first team effort by Chiasson.
Sophomore Kevin Love, also named to the first team, had another big showing, nailing shots from the baseline, while canning 5-of-9 field goals in notching 12 points.
Love also corralled 10 rebounds while loudly blocking three shots and dishing out two assists in another complete game effort.
Love also played the entire contest and certainly will be looking for bigger and better things in 2013-14.
Then you had guard/forward Juan Gonzalez, who chased around Maloney stud Jahmil Askew all over the court and limited the high scoring guard to only 13 points – six points below his average.
Gonzalez – also critical in getting the Lancers its ninth victory of the season – rolled up five points, four rebounds and a team high four assists in the game.
The senior also hit both shots he attempted and his critical 3-pointer in the third frame helped to start Eastern’s second-half surge.
And then you had another run by St. Paul as the squad went into the second round of the Class S tournament and gave Classical Magnet all it could handle and more.
Or course, the Falcons had Mr. Everything – Kyle Dube – out on the court and his postseason was impressive indeed, the best showing by a Bristol player in all the tournament.
Over St. Paul’s two postseason games, Dube posted 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds-per-game, taking and making most of the big shots that came his way.
The first teamer notched 13 points against Thomaston in a big revenge game but in the Classical challenge, Dube punched in a game-high 21 points and had several steals in the huge comeback bid.
Though the Falcons lost by only seven points and at one point trailed by 17, Dube and company never gave up and his 11-point fourth quarter effort fueled an impressive run.
And then you had wide receiver stud Brendan Carroll who hit critical free throws against the Golden Bears, scoring 16 points while notching 14 against Magnet.
Overall, he averaged 15.0 points a game in tournament play while blazing in six three-pointers during the fray.
Against Classical, Carroll drained 4-of-8 3-pointers from downtown and he drilled three three-pointers in a row during the second period to totally erase a nine-point deficit.
Carroll is a prime time player and the sophomore is going to have bigger and better seasons for St. Paul over the coming years.
Finally, senior guard Jordan Rowley was also just what the doctor ordered and his play on the court kept St. Paul in both of those close games.
Rowley rumbled in six points against Thomaston and zipped in four against Classical.
Frankly, you need leaders and players that have been there and done that on the court and that’s exactly what Rowley provided his mates.
He eventually fouled out against Classical to end his scholastic career but his defense in that fourth and final period against the magnet school helped to fuel that 23-10 point run.
Rowley hopes to be playing football in college next year.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE