BRISTOL - The 2017-18 boys basketball season was an overall success for area teams, as Bristol Central and St. Paul reached the postseason, while Bristol Eastern and Terryville came up one game short despite suffering key injuries.
The highlight of the season was the Rams going on a 14-game winning streak. Bristol Central did not lose a game in the month of January and went on to win its first four in February. The Rams, however, weren’t satisfied with their season because of their second round exit in the Division II tournament to Wilton after receiving a bye in the first round.
For the Falcons, a 1-4 start to the year presented the team with a challenge and St. Paul responded with an 11-4 finish to the regular season. In the Division III tournament, the Falcons won their first round matchup against Joel Barlow before being eliminated by Torrington.
The success of Bristol Central and St. Paul and its individual performers is the reason four of the five players on our 10th annual All-Press Boys Basketball Team First-Team are representatives of those programs - Jaekwon Spencer, Isaiah Miller, Mike Palmieri and Tyler Arbuckle.
Players selected to our All-Press second-team from these two programs are Matthew Garry, Noah Plantamuro, Dathan Hickey and Alex Lape.
Bristol Eastern had two players selected to our All-Press team, Mac Goulet and Camryn Tate. Goulet received first-team honors, while Tate is part of the second-team.
For Bristol Central, it all started with senior forward and captain Spencer, who had a stellar career with 1,196 points and 700-plus rebounds in 68 games. Spencer got the team together following its slow start to the season and set the goal for the group to go unbeaten in January.
He led the Rams to an 18-6 overall record this season, averaging 21.4 points per game and 11.8 rebounds. He scored 514 total points.
Spencer also earned his third consecutive all-conference selection and received his first first-team All-State recognition in Division II. The senior will be playing at the collegiate level, but is unsure where.
Miller, the Rams’ point guard, played in 65 career games. With his team down double-digits and the high school careers of the deep senior class on the line, Miller showed why he was deserving of being named All-Press. He led the charge behind the 17-0 Bristol Central run that put the Rams in front of Wilton in the fourth quarter of a second round state tournament game.
Both Spencer and Miller had been in the spotlight before on the varsity basketball court. Plantamuro hadn’t, but was used to pressure as a star baseball player. This year he was in the spotlight for the Rams and made his presence felt as a knock-down 3-point shooter. Plantamuro hit 65 3-pointers this season, which tied Daquan Brooks’ single-season school record.
Hickey and Lape complete the Bristol Central selections to the All-Press team.
Hickey’s story is well-known as a premier athlete in the area, committing to Yale University for football this fall. Lape has the talent needed for college football, but has ran into some trouble with concussions, which has held him back.
The two showed off their multi-sport ability on the basketball court this season for the Rams. Hickey was the lockdown defender, tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player. He often found himself as the best athlete on the floor and showed it defensively, as any opposing offensive player had his fair share of struggles getting past Hickey to the paint.
Lape came into the season with fellow big man Alex Bernier as two threats down low for Bristol Central. When Bernier went down with an injury, Lape was forced into a bigger role. His ability to grab offensive rebounds, keeping possessions alive in doing so, particularly stood out this season.
Seniors Palmieri and Arbuckle led St. Paul’s group.
Palmieri scored 1,059 career points for the Falcons and averaged 15.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists this winter while shooting 37 percent from 3-point range.
Arbuckle was the leading scorer for St. Paul and third in the NVL, averaging 23.3 points. He finished his Falcons career with 935 points, an impressive number after missing 13 games as a sophomore and 10 games last season. He also averaged 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists this season.
The two were rewarded for their performances by being named to the roster for the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Senior All-Star game. Arbuckle was named MVP of the game, with 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Arbuckle was also named first-team All-State in Division III and Palmieri was second-team All-State.
Most impressive about the two was the ability to defend while still putting up strong offensive performances. It showed against the Red Raiders in St. Paul’s exit from the state tournament. Torrington had come in averaging 75 points per game. Arbuckle and Palmieri were a big reason the Red Raiders scored just 56 points.
Both Palmieri and Arbuckle will continue their basketball careers after high school, though still undecided as to where. The two are exploring college offers and Arbuckle is considering a post-grad year as well.
Garry, the third and final selection from the Falcons, was a double-double threat on any night. He had 12 double-doubles, giving the Falcons a third dimension on offense.
Bristol Eastern had a pair of seniors step up admirably. Both Goulet and Tate shined on the floor this season for the Lancers and the seniors were the main reason behind Bristol Eastern coming just one game short of a state tourney berth.
Goulet, an all-conference selection in the CCC South, stepped into the primary scoring role this season. He responded with a stellar campaign, averaging 13.2 points and 8 rebounds. He also shot 46 percent from the field.
Tate’s impact may have not always shown up in the box score, but his presence on the defensive end of the court and as the leader was a constant. He was a big reason Bristol Eastern kept its postseason hopes alive.
The Lancers held opponents to 51 points per game and Tate was a big reason for that.
“Camryn was a stabilizing force for us,” Bristol Eastern coach Bunty Ray said. “I could always count on him to make good decisions. And this year he defended really well. We had mismatches at times, so he defended inside and on the perimeter. As our point guard he ran the offense unselfishly. He showed improvements every year and was an easy choice to be a captain.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org