BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern boys basketball team went with a bit of a youth movement against New Britain on Monday, Feb. 4 and while the Lancers fell 63-37 in a Central Connecticut Conference interdivisional tilt, the future was competing on the court.
And that included extended minutes for several junior varsity players who helped trim an 18-point second period deficit to a single digit affair early in the third stanza.
“I’m watching those kids improve in practice every day,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “The way that we’re going, there’s no need for me to wait. Not only did they play well, they’re starting to push some people and that’s what we need. A lot of guys are getting comfortable. Competition is really healthy and hopefully in practice, people start to realize that and if they want minutes, they’re going to have to earn them.”
Elijah Parent once again led the team in scoring, hitting for 11 points in a whirlwind contest that saw New Britain (11-3) come out with all sorts of pressure.
Parent also added three assists and three steals while Jahcyrus Bynum had five points, three rebounds, and three assists.
But Eastern reserve, forward Tyler Donohue, was outstanding in a career-high 23 minutes of action.
He cashed in six points, on 3-of-3 shooting, while nabbing a team-high seven rebounds.
Donohue dug in on defense, hit the boards with zest, and did everything his coach asked him to do.
“I thought he was the best player on the floor for a minute there,” said Ray of Donohue. “He’s a kid who doesn’t play much basketball but when he starts to play, you can see where he is. He’s a character kid. A lot of times, we underestimate character. Basketball skill is one thing but I’ll take a kid like that who works hard, who listens, who has character. Those are the kids that, when push comes to shove, you’re going to win with.”
“Hopefully, down the road, he uses this and says to himself ‘maybe I can make myself into a really good basketball player,’ add some skills to that hustle and determination, and I think you’re going to see someone materialize into a really good basketball player.”
Sophomore’s Drew Fries and Trini Otero (eight points, four rebounds) also played well while Ben Chiasson (three rebounds), Jordyn Tate, Dylan Woodsome, and Bryce Curtin all made contributions.
New Britain had speed, quickness, and finished in the paint and forced Eastern into 30-plus turnovers.
Tahmeen Dupree scored a team best 14 points for New Britain while six other players tallied five points or more in a balanced attack.
“They’re an explosive team,” said Ray of New Britain. “Look at their record, their scores. I couldn’t fault our guys for what they were doing. It’s just frustrating when you’re down so many guys and you can’t attack the basket. It’s part of the game but I like the way the young kids responded.”
The Hurricanes rolled out 13 straight points to open the contest but Parent found Tate for a long-range hoop and Donohue canned a basket to trim the deficit to single-digits at 13-4.
A 9-0 run by New Britain made it a 22-4 contest with 7:40 remaining in the half and that edge grew to 19 off consecutive hoops from Shannan Charles (nine points) with 4:40 before intermission.
But those youngsters from Eastern cobbled together a 12-2 run – limiting turnovers and finding the bottom of the net – to make it a nine point affair.
Bynum found Donohue for two, Otero canned two consecutive three-point plays, Parent hit a jumper and when Bynum ended the jaunt with two charity tosses, Eastern was hanging around at 30-21 with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter.
However, over the next 5:38, Eastern miscues and gaffes led to a suffocating 17-0 run and with just seconds left to play in the third, it was a 44-21 game – the Hurricanes biggest edge in the contest to that point.
“Our defense was fine all night. It was our offense that ignited [New Britain’s] offense,” said Ray. “We have no one to blame but ourselves. If we play smart offense, we’re able to move the ball and get some things offensively, not even baskets, just not turn the ball over or at least make plays going downhill. We weren’t making plays downhill. We were trying to throw the ball out and they were taking those and going the other way.”
Late in the game, Parent got into the groove to can a three; Otero hit his final jumper; and Fries and Parent connected on free throws. But at the end of the night, the Lancers were on the wrong side of a 63-37 final.
“We’ve just got to get stronger,” said Ray. “We’re getting pushed around in almost every game. I don’t know if it’s youth. I don’t know what it is. Teams are just, night-in and night-out, more athletic than us and they’re just stronger than us but that being said, we’re still stepping in toe-to-toe. We’re just not able to convert based on the fact the game is going too fast, they’re displaced us going to the basket and we’re not able to get second chances or anything inside although tonight was the first time I saw us really trying to get inside, really trying to get to the basket.”
“Just going against New Britain, it’s very difficult to do.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Michael Letendre, email him at MLetendre@BristolObserver.com.