BRISTOL - With its eighth win of the season coming against rival Bristol Eastern last week, the Bristol Central boys basketball team secured a playoff spot.
The success of the Rams, though, has been no surprise, especially for a group led by seven seniors - Jaekwon Spencer, Isaiah Miller, Noah Plantamuro, Dathan Hickey, Alex Lape, Alex Bernier and Brett Kempton.
The standard of success was set following their freshmen season, during which the group went 20-0 as a freshmen team.
With high expectations, the 1-3 start to this season was quite unexpected, particularly after losses to Manchester (9-3), Middletown (5-5) and East Lyme (9-1) to begin the season.
“It definitely woke us up,” Hickey said. “As a freshman team, we went undefeated so we thought senior year we would just come in, go undefeated and it would be a smooth ride. Losing in the beginning of the season helped us out knowing that it’s not going to be easy throughout the season.”
And after the slow start, the Rams set a goal going into the month of January.
“I told the team as a captain that we needed to go undefeated in January and that’s what we’re doing right now,” Spencer said. “We have two more games this month and we plan on continuing winning in February. But we’re starting to play more as a team not individual ball. We’re playing our game and not stooping down to any other team’s level.”
Bristol Central is currently 8-0 in January.
“I think the biggest thing to our success in January has been just us playing our own game,” Miller said. “We started out playing tough opponents like Manchester and Middletown and we tried to play their games. Once we got our first few wins, we started realizing when we play at our own pace we play a lot better.”
All seven seniors bring something unique to the floor.
Spencer is the leading scorer for the Rams and can take over a game. Plantamuro is a lock down shooter from the outside. Miller is the floor general at the point. Hickey is a shutdown defender. Lape is a physical big and Kempton comes off the bench to provide good minutes on both ends.
“I think we’ve got a little bit of everything,” Plantamuro said. “We’ve got shooters, big men, dudes that want to handle the ball. When people get pressured, they’ve got people to go to and we’ve just come together. At the beginning of the season, we were tight but the more games we play, we just come together and play as a family.”
And all the pieces are there for Bristol Central to make this final year a memorable one with that 1-3 start fueling the Rams to get to where they are now.
“It motivated us definitely,” Lape said. “Playing hard games and seeing how it is to lose pushed us to go to the next level, play harder, play with a sense of urgency and continue winning.”
Still, Bristol Central is looking for much more going forward and the seven seniors know where they’ve been at the freshmen level and are looking to put together another special year as they have one last season together on the floor.
And will be back at it tonight when they put the Rams put their win streak on the line against Hartford Public.
“The biggest thing is just taking it one game at a time,” Miller said. “We have Hartford Public [tonight] so we can’t be worried about Berlin after that or the next game. Every single week we’ve got to focus on just one game at a time and keep polishing up our game and not worrying about what other teams are doing.”
While Bristol Central may not be worried about what other teams are doing, other teams are being put on notice by the run the Rams are on.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org