MERIDEN – For one quarter of play, the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team hung in with a fast-paced Maloney squad on Friday, Feb. 2 in Meriden.
But the other three periods were nearly a forgettable nightmare as Maloney’s Vincent Martinez toasted the Lancers for a game-high 23 points as the visitors fell 69-39 in a Central Connecticut Conference South division encounter from Francis T. Maloney High School.
Martinez hit from all over the court – scoring 15 first-half points – as Maloney (8-7) qualified for the state tournament over the winning effort.
“The number one thing on the scout was to make sure Martinez does not get off because when he does, they are unbeatable,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “Really, I’ve got to give the kid credit. He stays patient, he picks his spots, he gets to the open floor; he hits threes; and he gets to the basket. I really didn’t have any answers to guard that team.”
“We tried a little zone but they started making shots and then we got into our man and there was no way we were going to be able to guard them man-to-man, not with their bigs, and everything that they have.”
But the game started well for Eastern (4-10 overall), even as the Spartans ran out to a 9-2 edge to open play.
Elijah Parent – in his best game of the season – canned three straight threes for Eastern and when Trini Otero’s sweet turnaround found pay dirt, the Lancers trailed just 16-13 after one completed quarter and the team was in the mix.
“We made a point of emphasis to go out there and try to play well in the first quarter because we kind of get blown out early [in other games],” said Ray. “I thought we did a pretty good job of doing the little things and when we skipped the ball out of it, we found shots.”
Parent ended the evening with a season-high 14 points to go along with two rebounds and three assists.
Carter Dziedzic added seven points and team highs of seven rebounds and four assists.
Jordyn Tate played a spirited game as he hit for four points; Tyler Donahue’s four points was his varsity career-high, Matt D’Amato added a triple and two rebounds, Bryce Curtin also canned a 3-pointer as well and Isaac Dubay had two rebounds to pace the Lancers.
“I can’t say enough about Jordyn Tate,” said Ray. “You saw him diving all over the floor, putting in a great effort [and] Isaac Dubay doing the same thing. Elijah [Parent] played great. Matt D’Amato was out there working as hard as he could and so was Tyler Donahue.”
“Those younger kids have really, really improved. They’re playing with a lot of confidence [and] maybe it’s time to start making a few moves and giving them more of an opportunity.”
But Maloney used an 8-0 run to open the second quarter and when Jeremiah Williams (eight points) started and ended the burst with 3s, the home team squad led 24-13 with 6:06 left before the half.
Later in the frame, Curtin and D’Amato hit 3-pointers and Parent canned a jumper to trim the deficit to eleven at 32-21 with 2:55 remaining in the second period.
However, the deficit was pushed out to 16 to end the half with Eastern trailing 37-21.
“Maloney really didn’t change defenses,” said Ray. “We just stopped making shots but I thought the ball stopped moving too. That’s something we’re going to have to look at on film. We’re going to have to make some adjustments.”
The Spartans opened the third period with a 12-3 jaunt and when Maloney big man Anthony Forbes (nine points) dropped in a hoop, the deficit ballooned to 49-24 with 3:00 left in the stanza.
“Any team that makes a big run at us, that’s the way it’s been going for us [and] we just can’t answer,” said Ray. “Obviously, our guys don’t score inside [and] it hurts us. We have to rely on just perimeter shot after perimeter shot. I was just begging them to drive. When we did, [Maloney] was there but we still have to get to the line and get some easy baskets. They want you to shoot those open threes because you’re not going to make them all night.”
“We just played right into their hands.”
Dziedzic dropped in two hoops to close out the Eastern scoring but the Lancers were down 56-28 to begin the final quarter if action.
“It was just a tough match-up for us overall,” said Ray.
Eastern trailed by 34 midway through the final period but D’Amato found Donahue for a hoop, Tate scored four straight points – including a circus shot that found the bottom of the net, plus a foul – and with one minute to play, Donahue ended the scoring with one final basket as Eastern fell by thirty, dropping to 10 losses on the season with six games to play.
“At this point of the season, we’re just trying to keep our character, trying to make sure that we’re out there playing hard, building,” said Ray. “We’re still playing for the tournament. I don’t know where the mood of these guys is. It’s going to be on them to see if they want to come together as a team and see where they’re at.”