BRISTOL - Going up against one of the top opponents in the state can serve as a credible barometer for where a team is at in terms of its progress, and the Bristol Central girls basketball team had that opportunity on Friday night.
Playing host to No. 10 Berlin, which came in with an undefeated 7-0 record, the Rams battled through a hard-fought first half before the Redcoats pulled away with a 54-34 victory, sending Central to its third straight loss. But despite the lopsided final score, the Rams were focused on how playing a quality opponent like the Redcoats could help them in their continued quest to develop their youth and grow as a team.
“It will definitely help us in the long run,” freshman Sophia Torreso said after scoring a team-high 12 points in the losing effort. “We’ve seen one of the best teams in the state right now, but playing good teams only helps you. It doesn’t bring you down at all.”
Central, heading into the new week with a 3-5 record, was hardly down on itself after the final buzzer sounded on Friday night. Sure, the Rams were held to just four points in the third quarter while Berlin pulled away, but the two quarters that preceded it showed that Central could hang around with one of the best teams in the CCC.
“I thought the first half we played outstanding,” head coach Steve Gaudet said. “A 12-point game against the No. 10 team in the state, and we were competitive. We’re close. I’m really optimistic after our effort (Friday).”
Gaudet didn’t necessarily need to see his group battle through two quarters against a tough adversary to feel optimistic about the rest of the season, but it certainly raised his already high hopes. The Rams, already at three wins this season, didn’t win their third game last year until Feb. 4. This year, win No. 3 came back on Dec. 31, and after finishing a solid 3-3 in the team’s final six games last year, the progress seems to have carried over to this year’s group.
“I definitely feel like we’ve really grown,” Torreso said. “We have a lot of skill this year. We have a tall girl that posts up really well and gets to the hoop. I feel like we’re going to go on a winning streak in the next few weeks and get better from there.”
That “tall girl” is sophomore Laney Maher, just one of a number of underclassmen who are making an impact for Central this season. Torreso, a consistent starter since the start of the season, is another, as is sophomore guard Ella Watson, who was in Torreso’s position last year as a freshman who was thrust into the fold as a steady starter during a rebuilding campaign. The Rams are loaded with youth, but they continue to build upon their experience, which they believe will result in continued improvements as the season progresses.
“We’ve improved a lot, and we’re young too,” Gaudet said. “I have a bunch of athletes that aren’t afraid, will take the shots and they’re coachable. We just have to execute a little more and continue to gain confidence and those wins will come for us.”
Sooner or later, the Rams believe these lessons will turn into wins.
“We’re seeing progress and improvement, and we have some winnable games coming up,” Gaudet said. “I’m glad we’re taking this turn now.”