Defense, communication and aggressiveness help bring Bristol Central to new heights

Published on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 21:15
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

BRISTOL ― There are and have been long standing winning streaks across a variety of sports in the rivalry between Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central, but one of the lengthiest string of wins came to an end this past weekend.

After 32 losses in a row, the Central girls basketball team defeated its crosstown rival for the first time since 2004 with a dominant 55-42 victory over Eastern. In his 17th season with the Rams, this was head coach Steve Gaudet’s first win over the Lancers as he escapes the purgatory of a lopsided rivalry that rarely had close results.

The win signified a step forward for Central as, probably for the first time in the lifetimes of any of the players, the team was in control for the majority of the game against Eastern. The Rams also earned their third win in a row this season after losing their first seven games to start the campaign.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Gaudet said. “It’s been a roller coaster of games we should’ve won early on, and we got on a streak. I [knew] we were getting better and I knew the wins were coming. We just needed one and once we got one, it would start to build. This team believes, and they fight, and they trust each other. It was an excellent team effort.”

A young team with just two seniors on its roster, defeating Eastern provided closure for Central’s older players who were in desperate pursuit of a quality effort in their biggest rivalry game while also motivated the younger players to continue building on their accomplishments of this season.

“It feels so good because I know all the older people that I used to play with who never got any win [against Eastern] and I feel like I got that win for them,” senior Ella Watson said.

The keys to the Rams’ historic victory were primarily defensive, as they held the Lancers to a total of nine points in the second and third quarters combined. The main goal was to slow down Ciara Collins, Eastern’s leading scorer and one of the top scorers in the state, and make the rest of the team make shots consistently.

“We communicated, we played defense, we hit shots and we were aggressive on offense,” Gaudet said. “We just stayed the course and stayed positive, nothing got us down. When we got up by 23 and [Eastern] started making a run, these kids just believed and that’s a difference, we haven’t had that [before].”

Collins finished with 12 points behind inconsistent shooting and received little support from her teammates for most of the contest while Central senior Lillian Sirois supplemented her team’s stout defensive effort with an unrelenting fervor on offense. Eastern could not stop Sirois as she finished with 25 points and consistently cut into the heart of the Lancers’ defense on her way to finishing difficult shots at the basket.

Sirois, who transferred to Central this year after spending the majority of her high school career at St. Paul, said she was not sure she even wanted to join the basketball team for this season. After deciding to play, she quickly became a leader on and off the court as one of the team’s better players who also brought varsity experience the team was lacking.

“It’s my senior year, so I had to finish it out with a bang,” Sirois said.

The Rams’ next two games are against Tolland on Tuesday and Innovation on Wednesday. With these two opponents combining for one win, which came Dec. 17, so far this season, Central is in prime position to finish the week with a 5-7 record, leaving it three wins away from a state tournament berth with eight games left to play.

“I think we’ve had our losses for the rest of the season,” Sirois said. “From here on out, it’s only up. There’s no more down.”

Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or mhornick@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol Central on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 21:15. Updated: Tuesday, 25 January 2022 21:18.