BRISTOL - There was a time when a postseason appearance for the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team seemed far-fetched.
After winning three of their first four games to start the season, the Lancers proceeded to drop nine of their next 10 with just six games left on the schedule.
But that has all changed as Bristol Eastern has won three of its last four games and now has a chance to make the Division III state tournament if it can get one win against either New Britain or rival Bristol Central.
It just won’t be easy.
Rather, it will be hard earned as the Hurricanes are 13-5 and the Rams are 15-3 and are currently riding winning streaks of their own.
Bristol Central has won 14 straight games, while New Britain has won eight in a row.
“They’re really good teams,” Bristol Eastern senior Tyler Mason said. “We’ve just gotta stop their best players and run our plays to perfection. We have to go 100 percent all the time.”
A major reason behind the Lancers’ turnaround has been their younger players coming in and stepping up as complimentary players to the upperclassmen.
Freshman Elijah Parent has put together some nice scoring stretches, while sophomores Matt D’Amato and Bryce Curtin have also come off the bench to provide some minutes when needed.
All three have been beneficial to helping the more experienced players such as Mason, Mac Goulet, Camryn Tate, Jake Lafferty and Nate Silva.
“We’re getting different guys out there and playing some younger guys,” Bristol Eastern head coach Bunty Ray said. “Elijah Parent has really stepped up. He made a big 3 [Tuesday] and he had 11 the other day. Matt D’Amato came in. Bryce Curtin has been a factor in this little run for us too.”
The Lancers have rediscovered themselves according to Ray and he believes his group still has plenty of fight left.
“[After the win over Plainville] we talked about how proud I was as a coach and as a coaching staff,” Ray said. “Early in the season, some teams fold but they stayed the course and put themselves in a position to try to make the tournament. We’ve had some adversity dealing with injuries and other things.”
The Lancers are looking forward to their rematch against cross-town rival Bristol Central set for Monday at 6:45 p.m.
In the first contest between the two teams, Bristol Eastern lost 41-30. The only difference this time is the Lancers have the home court on their side.
“That is definitely going to be a redemption game,” Goulet said. “We want that win more than we want any win in the season.”
“Last time, they got the edge on us,” Mason said. “This time we have to counter everything that they do but also put our foot on their throat because that’s how we’ve got to do it [to win] these last games.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org