PLAINVILLE – A three-pointer by Plainville’s Dane Stephens, in the overtime period against the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team on Thursday, Feb. 7, proved to be the game-winner as the Blue Devils nabbed a 38-36 victory from the Ivan Wood Gymnasium in Plainville.
The win qualified Plainville (8-9) for state tournament play punching its ticket for the states for the first time since 2010-11 season when Chase Tarca was in his senior campaign for the Blue Devils. Eastern, who fell to 4-12 overall and lost its 10th straight game, made a huge third period run as the contest was about to fall apart.
Off a three-point play from Plainville’s Sam Lestini (four points over 15 minutes), the home squad led 24-13 with 6:07 left to go in the third period.
But the Lancers struck back, thanks in part to a technical foul on Stephens, as two Elijah Parent free throws led to a huge 14-0 run; and when Eastern’s Carter Dziedzic (game-high 14 points, nine rebounds) blasted in his third three-pointer of the game and his squad led 27-24 with 57 second to play in the third.
“We started making some shots,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “There was a lid on the rim for us for a little while there. Plainville did a good job taking Carter away and other people had to make plays. [Jordyn] Tate made a basket and Elijah, obviously, with the free throws. Carter was eventually able to make some shots going back again in the right direction.”
Eastern led 34-32 late in the fourth period and Plainville was looking for Javan Paradis to get the game-tying lay-up.
With six seconds left in regulation, he made his move to the hoop from the left side, missed the lay-up but Alec Couture grabbed the offensive rebound and his put-back tied things up at 34-34 forcing an overtime session.
“We battled,” said Ray. “We had some tough match-ups for us out there. Our kids did as well as they can defending the first play. It was the second plays that killed us. [Plainville] just ran to the glass and we weren’t in rebounding position.”
Turnovers kept Eastern from getting an early hoop in the fifth and final quarter while Lestini made 1-of-2 free throws and when Stephens hit the final Plainville hoop his three-pointer and go-ahead basket. The hoop gave Plainville a 38-34 edge and it was a two-possession game with 2:22 to play. “Credit Bristol Eastern,” said Plainville coach Jim DiNello. “They worked hard and played right till the very end. It was a tremendous basketball game played by two teams that worked hard on defense.”
With 1:24 to go in overtime, Dziedzic found Tyler Donohue for a bucket, trimming the deficit to 38-36 and Donohue, seconds later, forced a jump-ball but Plainville maintained possession of the ball.
“I played a lot of young kids tonight,” said Ray. “Hopefully down the road, they’ll learn how to win these close games. A free throw here, a rebound there, you know we’re walking out of here with a win. It doesn’t always happen but I hope that they are mature enough and put in the work and they understand with the work, they’re going progress as basketball players and they’re going to be able to handle those type of situations.”
Callahan later missed a lay-up but got his own offensive rebound as Eastern eventually forced Peyton Warnat into a 1-and-1 foul shooting situation.
He missed the front-end and Eastern had the ball, looking to re-tie the showdown.
Winding down the clock, Eastern’s Trini Otero took the Lancers’ final shot but was called for an offensive foul and with 3.8 left, Plainville had the ball and a two-point lead in hand.
But on the in-bounds, Tate intercepted the ball and Drew Fries grabbed it.
The ball was knocked out of his hands as time expired and Plainville held on to win by two points in overtime.
But it was a competitive game from the onset.
Off a game-opening three by Plainville, Dylan Woodsome’s first hoop led to a 7-0 run as Eastern went ahead 7-3 with 4:58 to go in the first frame.
One final Parent free throw made it 11-8 after one period while another Woodsome hoop saw Eastern lead it by five early in the second.
But a 16-0 Plainville burst highlighted by four three-point plays made it an 11-point game early into the third frame.
“We did a great job defensively,” said Ray. “We mixed defenses early. Our man-to-man was pretty tough against guys that were good ball-handlers. We got the stops that we wanted. For us, it’s never defense. It’s offense. You can look at all the possessions. They actually scored a lot off our offense which has been happening to us quite a bit.”
“We’re giving up too many transition baskets against our offense.”
But when Eastern answered back with that 14-0 run, and Dziedzic scored eight of those points, the Lancers led by three at 27-24.
“He looked pretty good tonight,” said Ray of Dziedzic.
Plainville trailed by one entering the final frame of regulation and a lay-up from Tate put Eastern on top 29-26 with 5:27 left in the fourth.
The Blue Devils then went on a 6-1 run as Paradis hit for four and Ben Dougherty made a steal and lay-up and with 3:46 remaining, Plainville was in charge 32-30.
Eastern then canned three straight charity tosses as Eastern reclaimed the lead at 33-32.
Warnat later missed a free throw and a jump-ball off the play gave the Lancers possession.
And with 35.7 seconds left in regulation, Fries hit one-of-two foul shots as the Lancers crawled in front 34-32.
Plainville then took two timeouts, setting up Paradis for the game-tying attempt.
The hoop missed, Couture made his attempt to force OT and even as Eastern stole the ball with just seconds left, the visiting program had a chance before eventually bowing out by two.
“At the end, I was hoping he was going to hold on to the ball instead of giving it up there,” said Ray. “Credit Trini trying to make a play here with time winding down.”
“The first action didn’t work for us and the second action, you know, a kid trying to make a play, we just couldn’t catch a break.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.