Boys Basketball: Devils struggle with finishing what they start

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The Plainville boys basketball team is 1-4 over the last five games. If the Blue Devils finished what they started, they would be knocking on the door of a state tournament bid. Instead, they’re hanging on desperately to keep that door open.

All four losses have the same thing in common. Plainville was in the game until in a span of one quarter the game was over. In two of the four losses Plainville was ahead at the half. In the other two losses they trailed by only a basket at the halftime break.

Last week, the Devils held a 23-20 halftime lead against Maloney on Jan 28. A 19-15 third quarter relinquished the lead, and Plainville lost a heart-breaker, 56-54.

Plainville fell to 3-10 on the season on Jan 30 when a 25-20 halftime lead over South Windsor evaporated with Maloney’s 21-8 surge in the third quarter (33-14 in the second half) on their way to a 53-39 decision.

AJ Lestini led the Devils with 16 points and Tyshawn Johnson had 14 points to account for a majority of the offense in the loss to South Windsor.

Plainville head coach Jim DiNello said that the team has had its share of ups and downs. “I realize we are not going to win every quarter, but we certainly are not going to win with two or three players doing all the scoring,” he said. “We need to be a little more competitive than that. We are just not being consistent offensively. We are at a point in the season where it basically comes down to a couple of plays here and there that can make a difference.”

Plainville’s best shot for victory came during a Jan. 24 game against Lewis Mills. The Devils had Johnson in the lineup for the first time this season, and it appeared the offense was finally going to figure it all out.

Johnson scored a team-high 12 points, but the rest of the Devils struggled. Alec Couture scored 9 points, and Javan Paradis added 7 points—well below his 14 point per game average. AJ Lestini and Omar Miller added six points apiece.

Lestini took an assist from Johnson following a steal, putting in a one hander off the window to get Plainville on the board. Paradis threw down a put back, Couture hit a three from the top of the key and Johnson drove the lane for a bucket, making it four different scorers in four straight possessions.

The Devils were out in front by a slim, 9-8 margin with 2:40 left in the opening quarter when the offense stopped spreading the ball around. Lewis Mills began exploiting the middle and took advantage under the basket to build a 14-9 lead.

Three turnovers on successive possessions to open the second quarter found Plainville trailing, 22-13. By the time Paradis and Johnson worked back-to-back defensive steals for buckets, the first half had come to a close with the Devils trailing, 23-21, at the break.

Plainville battled to stay in it, in spite of an offense that couldn’t find any consistency. Trailing, 37-33, entering the final quarter, those deficiencies began to take its toll. Lestini scored the only basket in the fourth quarter but fouled out with 2:34 left and the Devils trailing, 47-37. That created a gaping hole under the boards and Lewis Mills went right after it.

“It comes down to, we need to find a couple of more quality possessions during these games instead of turning it over at critical times,” said DiNello.

Last week things didn’t get any easier in a tough 56-54 loss to Maloney on Jan 28. Plainville fell behind 14-7 in the opening quarter but took the lead at the half 23-20 by outscoring Maloney 16-6 in the second quarter.

Maloney went back on top with a 19-15 third quarter advantage and outscored Plainville 17-16 in the final quarter. Couture led the way with 20 points and Johnson added 18 points with Lestini and Paradis checking in with seven points each.

DiNello said that the losses weren’t coming because of a lack of effort. “We get impatient at times and that hurts us. We seem to be trying to do too much when we don’t need to,” said the coach. “Defensively we have been pretty good. Our shot selection is poor at times. We have the talent but we need more than two or three guys playing well at times we need all five guys playing well at the same time.”

Plainville will get back after it at Rocky Hill on Tuesday Feb 3 and again on Wednesday at University and finish up the week at home on Friday Feb 7 against E.O. Smith.

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