NEW BRITAIN - At halftime of the Bristol Central boys basketball team‚Äôs game against New Britain on Tuesday, junior center Donovan Clingan only had two points.
The focal point of the Rams‚Äô offense, a low-scoring night for Clingan would be detrimental for many teams. But courtesy of its best outside shooting performance of the season, Central was actually leading the Hurricanes by nine en route to a 27-point win.
The Rams drilled eight shots from behind the arc Tuesday night, highlighted by five from senior Eli Rodgriguez who finished as the game‚Äôs high scorer with 17 points and only one missed shot.
‚ÄúDonovan didn‚Äôt really have a lot in the paint, but we shot the ball good as a team,‚ÄĚ Rodriguez said. ‚ÄúWhen Donovan gets the ball, three defenders go down to him in the paint so that leaves a lot of outside shots in the corner and the wing so we just have to move around and find the open spot when he gets the ball.‚ÄĚ
Rodriguez was yet to make a three-pointer through Central‚Äôs first three games, but when he checked in during the first quarter against New Britain, he splashed corner threes on his first two touches. He made one more in the second quarter along with Sean Wininger and Piotr Nizielski.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre better than we‚Äôve been showing and we showed that [Tuesday night],‚ÄĚ Barrette said. ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt be happier for Eli, he puts in a lot of time. What people don‚Äôt see is behind the scenes, he‚Äôs at practice an hour before [it starts] getting shots up, he stayed after the last couple of days. He played well all fall, and I knew he was better than he‚Äôs been playing, it almost seemed like he was a little bit more comfortable coming off the bench than he was starting the last two games.‚ÄĚ
With Central‚Äôs outside shots falling, New Britain was forced to play tighter defense on the shooter, which opened up the inside for Clingan who scored 13 points after halftime. The team showed in this game that it can score through other players in this game and how difficult the offense can be to stop once those other scorers get going.
‚ÄúI always preach the first four minutes out of halftime, we came out with a different energy in the second half,‚ÄĚ Barrette said. ‚ÄúHe (Clingan) had only taken four shots at halftime and we said ‚Äėok, now it‚Äôs time to own the block.‚Äô He actually missed that first bunny, but then after that he scored and he dunked everything with some force.‚ÄĚ
Clingan is never reluctant to pass the ball when getting swarmed with smaller defenders and when they have as much space as they did Tuesday and are shooting well he sees no need to force anything through the heavy defense.
‚ÄúIt was big tonight, especially that kids were knocking down shots,‚ÄĚ Clingan said. ‚ÄúWhenever I got the ball inside, I was getting double or triple teamed so I was doing my best to find the open man because when I found the open man they were hitting all the shots, which is big.‚ÄĚ
The shooting will not be on like that every game and the Rams will not need it to be, but with a variety of talented shooters down lineup, including Clingan himself, this offense has the firepower to frustrate defenders in so many ways. Rodriguez led all scorers with 17, Clingan finished with 15 and Wininger notched 11 points as open shots were plentiful in this game.
‚ÄúSince kids were knocking down shots, people had to go out and guard them so I had a chance to go one-on-one in the post,‚ÄĚ Clingan said. ‚ÄúI hit all my free throws for the first time this year so that was big.‚ÄĚ
The Rams current list of opponents in CCC Region B will not challenge them in most games the way they could be if they were able to schedule opponents from around the state, but Barrette believes there is still a chance for larger formats in the postseason in which they truly show the strength of this offense.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs still hope, there‚Äôs still talk of having a CCC tournament,‚ÄĚ Barrette said. ‚ÄúWe try to win every night, that‚Äôs all we do. We win the night and that will take care of itself. If we win each game, then we‚Äôll be in position to have good seeding in the CCC tournament and get to play outside our pod a little bit.‚ÄĚ
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.