BRISTOL - When the Bristol Central boys basketball team travels across the city to face Bristol Eastern, Rams head coach Tim Barrette always hammers his players with a game plan focused around scoring inside.
That might sound obvious considering Central is led by seven-foot-two center Donovan Clingan, who causes problems in the paint for every team he faces, but there is another reason as well.
“We never shoot the ball well [at Bristol Eastern] and I try to stress that to our guys, we had to get the ball inside,” Barrette said following Friday’s 66-51 victory. “I thought we did a good job [Friday]. Not early, I thought we took too many threes in the first quarter, we took nine in the first quarter, but we only took three in the second quarter and look at the difference in the scoreboard. When they’re going in, they’re great. When they’re struggling, you go with your bread and butter and that’s our seven-footer inside.”
Barrette is not exactly sure what causes his team to struggle from the outside, but he said it has been this way the entire time he has coached at Central. The Rams left last Friday’s matchup against Lancers with a 15-point win despite only making two three-pointers in the game.
“From the best shooters I’ve had, we’ve never made shots, but at the same time we always seem to pull it out,” Barrette said. “We’ve had a lot of bigs at Bristol Central for the last 10 years I’ve been lucky with that. We’ve been able to play a little bully ball inside and there’s nothing they can do and it’s tough. They had a great gameplan. If they make all their threes this game is a one-possession game.”
Outside of a pandemic, this could be attributed to the longstanding rivalry between the two schools and how Eastern is always filled to capacity for these games with loud, energetic fans from both schools. Junior guard Damion Glasper, who hit both of Central’s threes in that game, and was not exactly sure what about the Eastern gym causes problems for opposing shooters.
“I think it’s how the environment, and the rims are kind of tight, and look kind of small, so you’re scared to shoot, but if you get used to it you’ll get there,” Glasper said.
Part of this problem is simply that baskets are different and shooters will grow accustomed to certain setups or points of reference. The “bubble” portion of the last NBA season saw players shooting at higher percentages, which was believed to be caused in part by improved sight lines and playing on the same courts.
“I think it's a mental block and it’s probably my fault because I keep talking about it,” Barrette said. “At the same time, it’s a different set up than anything we have. The lighting is good here, there’s no excuse. It’s just a different gym and there’s certain gyms we shoot the ball well in. Everyone likes Bristol Central, everyone shoots the ball well there and we seem to shoot well in the Meriden schools. I have no idea why this gym is it.”
But The Rams scored 52 of their 66 points from two-point field goals, anchored by 37 points from Clingan on a litany of dunks. Once the team accepted where it was easiest to get its points from, it knew it would be tough to stop.
Central does have the ability as a team to do damage from the outside as Glasper and senior Sean Wininger are both talented shooters, who will always get quality looks because of all the defensive attention Clingan attracts. But there is something about the Bristol Eastern rims they are yet to figure out.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org