By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Bristol Eastern girls basketball squad gets into their transition offense, it’s a tough component to contend with.
But Bristol Central – engaged with the Lancers in a city series showdown on Thursday, Jan. 22 – slowed the game down a bit and tried to minimize the damage.
However, those tactics eventually lost intensity and effectiveness and once the Lancers began to quicken the tempo, the Rams fell out of contention.
And in the end, Eastern defeated Central by a 62-29 final from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium in Bristol.
“I thought we executed very well, and we were patient and that’s one thing they’ve really developed since the last three weeks or so,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “We had to execute better, be patient, and take good shots. [Tonight] we shot very well from the field and we made some high percentage shots which helped too.”
Daijia Brooks led the charge for Eastern (12-1) with a game-high 24 points, eight rebounds, and five steals.
The five thefts Brooks made helped Eastern get into transition and just about in each instance, a lay-up or hoop in the paint followed.
And then Eastern also capitalized on other Central gaffs – turning those miscues into points.
“When you play against a player like [Daijia Brooks] and a team like that, you’ve got to limit the unforced errors, the unforced mistakes,” said Central coach Steve Gaudet. “We turned the ball over a couple times when we weren’t even facing too much pressure. It was when we threw the ball away or it went through our hands and you take away opportunities from us and give more opportunities to them, we’re in trouble.”
Diana Wunk sank nine points to go along with three steals; Jamilla Shoultz added eight points; Kianna Brooks had six points and three rebounds; while Gianna D’Amato flipped in four points, dished out two assists, and nabbed two steals.
Miya Laprise added four points and four rebounds off the bench. Miranda Janick blazed in five points; while Jillian LeBeau added a hoop in the winning effort.
Erika Monsalve led Central (6-7) with eight points; while Allie Martel added six as did Ashley Elder.
Early on though, the Rams hung around, kept things close and did an extremely good job of limiting Eastern’s looks at the hoop.
And just a few seconds into the second period, it was just a nine point game at 17-8 with Central within striking distance.
Then a quick 10-0 burst by the Lancers – pushing the score to 27-8 with 3:40 left before intermission – put the Rams quickly in the red.
“They did a good job to get us out of transition, slowing the ball down, and they got some good shots in there,” said Floyd of Central. “We got a couple rebounds [and] we got some steals on defense that got us in transition which was big and got us going.”
Eastern notched nine points over the opening 1:50 and trailing by seven, Gaudet went to the slow down tactics which paid off.
Walton hit a free throw and off the second of two consecutive hoops by Monsalve, Central was right there and down by just a 13-7 score with 31 seconds left in the first.
However, Brooks answered right back with two free throws and when she sank a short baseline jumper at the buzzer, Eastern was back on top by double-figures at 17-7.
“We were exactly where we wanted,” to be said Gaudet. “We were down 13-7 with 30 seconds to go [in the first quarter]. We turned the ball over twice I think [Daijia] scores both times with free throws and a basket and that was the story of the game.”
“That sent us on our heels.”
Central was hanging around to open the second when Elder canned a free throw to make it a 17-8 game with 7:32 left in the first half.
But quickly after that, the Rams started turning the ball over and Eastern went on a bit of a run.
“It was a little tougher for them to hold on to the ball…but I give them credit,” said Floyd of Central. “Even though we got up, they still tried to slow it down and that’s what you want to do with us. [But] we’re a lot deeper than they are on the bench.”
Off a floater from Central’s Meghan Hamel (2 points), Eastern ended the half on a 5-0 jaunt.
Shoultz banked in a hoop and sank a free throw; while Laprise ended the half with a beautiful floater and at the break, Eastern’s edge reached 34-14 via another 17-7 quarter.
“They came out firing in the second quarter,” said Gaudet of Eastern. “They increased their lead and we played timid and scared once we got down big.”
Eastern never let-up to open the second half and off a quarter opening 7-0 sprint, capped by a Daijia Brooks free throw, the Lancers were in command at 41-14 with 4:41 left in the third.
“I think the kids kept that same intensity level not just in the first quarter but in the second and third quarters,” said Floyd, “which helped us in transition.”
Leading 48-20 after three periods, Eastern went on another burst to open the frame and this time, a 7-0 zip made it a 55-20 game with 5:59 remaining.
Shoultz found LeBeau for a lay-up, Janick drained a three-pointer and Daijia Brooks ended the run with a sweet feed to Shoultz for a hoop as the 35-point lead by Eastern allowed Floyd to empty the remainder of his bench.
In the end, Central’s Michaela Bossi hit two free throws, Janick sank one additional shot and Ravan Rodriguez banked home a field goal to end the scoring as Eastern won the affair by a 62-29 push.
“They out-worked us,” said Gaudet of Eastern. “They’re not only better than us skill-wise but they out-worked us tonight. There’s no excuse. They completely outworked us on the boards, they wanted the ball more, they were more intense and we backpedaled.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE