BRISTOL - With one program fighting for its playoff life and the other trying to finish out the season strong to provide hope for next season, the Bristol Eastern and Plainville boys basketball teams took the floor Tuesday night.
The Lancers, though, got the best of the Blue Devils in their 45-33 win to inch one step closer to a state tournament berth.
With the win, Bristol Eastern needs to win one of its two remaining games against either New Britain or Bristol Central.
“We definitely got to keep the intensity up like we have been for the last three games,” Bristol Eastern’s Tyler Mason said. “We’ve been doing really good, but I just feel like we can’t slow down. We gotta keep going.”
The Lancers got off to a slow start on offense but Matt D’Amato came off the bench in the first quarter and provided some much needed offense. His five points got Bristol Eastern rolling.
D’Amato and the Lancers’ team scoring was a product of strong defensive play, something that has been a staple of this year’s team.
When the offense is slow for Bristol Eastern, its defense needs to step up, and that was no exception in this contest.
“I thought we played tremendous defense tonight like we usually do,” Lancers head coach Bunty Ray said. “We got some good contributions off the bench. We came out flat and we changed and put some of our subs in which gave us a bit of a wakeup call and they were able to get us the lead back.”
Camryn Tate led Bristol Eastern in scoring with 12 points and has been an integral reason in the Lancers winning three of their last four games.
“I think Camryn Tate the last two games is the hero,” Ray said. “He’s made shots, he’s defended, he’s done everything. He doesn’t get a lot of credit because he’s not a flashy player, but he goes out there and does all the little things that a team needs. Being a senior captain and a leader, I think Cam Tate gets a little credit for our success.”
Once Bristol Eastern took the lead in the game, it never looked back as the Lancers held the lead for the rest of the night and hit free throws throughout, shooting 86 percent from the line.
For Plainville, it was another challenging game. Finding ways to attack the Lancers defense was especially a struggle.
“They played a really good defensive game,” Blue Devils head coach Jim DiNello said. “They played man-to-man, didn’t let us drive to the rim and dared us to make shots from the outside. Bristol Eastern’s defense is really good. The game plan was great by them. They absolutely deserve all the credit.”
Plainville got a strong performance out of Brady Callahan and freshman Alec Couture stepped up with a big game of his own. Callahan finished with a team-high 10 points and Couture contributed nine points.
DiNello has been looking for a spark out of his group all season long and the freshman’s performance against a stout defense bodes well for the program moving forward.
“[Alec’s] game is starting to develop,” DiNello said. “He’s starting to get into his mid-range game a little more and not settling as much. We’re working hard [with him] to work on getting guys up in the air and improving his shot. Taking great shots instead of just settling for 3s and he did some great things tonight.”
With the win, Bristol Eastern moved to 7-11 on the season while Plainville dropped to 1-18.
The Lancers are on the right track, but will have a tall task ahead of them in order to make the tournament, as both the Hurricanes and Rams are double-digit win teams.
“We had to reinvent ourselves and put guys in different roles,” Ray said. “Sometimes that takes time but we’re seeing that hard work now start to pay off.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org