BRISTOL - It may not be football or baseball, but that doesnâ€™t mean Bristol Central boys basketball players Dathan Hickey and Noah Plantamuro arenâ€™t putting everything on the line each game just like they do in their primary sports.
Hickey, set to head to Yale University this upcoming fall for football, has been a defensive stalwart for the Rams all year long.
His ability to be tasked with locking down the opposing team's best player on the basketball court has been a big reason why Bristol Central has had a strong season up to this point.
â€śIt helps me rise to the occasion,â€ť Hickey said. â€śI like being in the spotlight and making plays. Being on the best player gives me the opportunity to show that Iâ€™m the best athlete on the court and that nobody will score on me.â€ť
Early this season, with Hickey out against East Lyme, Dev Ostrowski scored 46 points in the Rams 83-75 loss to the Vikings.
â€śThat should tell you the difference that Dathan makes,â€ť Bristol Central head coach Tim Barrette said. â€śNobody else has gotten even close to that when Dathanâ€™s here.â€ť
Hickey believes his experience on the football field has translated into him a defensive stalwart in basketball.
His lateral quickness stands out as opposing players rarely have been able to get past Hickey off the dribble.
â€śFace guarding is just like playing man defense in football,â€ť Hickey said. â€śMe not having to help or anything, I can just worry about getting my job done. I get a little bit into football mode getting physical out there. Some basketball players donâ€™t like being physical so that helps me.â€ť
With CCC Tournament play underway and the state tournament to follow soon after, having Hickeyâ€™s ability and willingness to take on any defensive assignment is big for the Rams in their quest for a state title.
â€śDefense is Dathanâ€™s role, heâ€™s a lockdown defender,â€ť Barrette said. â€śThatâ€™s what we challenge him to do. Heâ€™s going to Yale, heâ€™s a great athlete. Heâ€™s taking on some of the best players in this league and shutting them down on most nights.â€ť
Plantamuro, set to play college baseball, has put plenty of time into working on his jump shot.Â
â€śThis year I worked hard taking extra shots,â€ť Plantamuro said. â€śI found my role on the team, just to shoot. I donâ€™t dribble, I just shoot. I know I can give the team a spark and I have been.â€ť
Itâ€™s all been paying off as Plantamuro just recently delivered one of his best games of the season in the teamâ€™s first-round CCC Tournament game against Avon on Thursday. All 15 of his points were off of 3-pointers. His ability to knock down long-range shots has been a weapon for Bristol Central all year and must continue to be going forward.
â€śHeâ€™s been our most improved player,â€ť Barrette said. â€śHe could always shoot the ball, but heâ€™s come in stronger this year. The biggest thing is his mindset has changed. He wants the ball this year, which wasnâ€™t the case in the past.â€ť
Bristol Central can be a streaky team and Plantamuro has a lot to say for that.Â
When heâ€™s on from the perimeter, the Rams can beat any team in the state.
The ball movement and kicking a pass out to Plantamuro on the outside corner is something that opponents struggle with as they must also keep tabs on Jaekwon Spencer, Isaiah Miller, Alex Lape and Alex Bernier on other areas of the floor.
â€śAnytime we can find him open, we trust him, especially in that corner,â€ť Spencer said. â€śHeâ€™s been hot from that corner all season.â€ť
While the Rams have plenty of weapons to make a title run led by Spencer, both Hickey and Plantamuro will continue to play an integral role for Bristol Central as March approaches.
â€śWe have all the pieces,â€ť Hickey said. â€śWe were all together Tuesday after the win over Bristol Eastern talking whatâ€™s still ahead. Weâ€™re ready and weâ€™re going to have to get what we want to get done.â€ť
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org