BRISTOL - It was a packed gym at Bristol Eastern High School and the Lancersâ€™ boys basketball team needed a win over Bristol Central to earn a state tournament berth.
But the Rams spoiled Bristol Easternâ€™s opportunity, ending the Lancersâ€™ season with a 46-42 victory in a hard-fought game by both sides Monday night.
â€śIt feels really good,â€ť Bristol Centralâ€™s Alex Bernier said. â€śThey were talking a lot and I was happy to show them whatâ€™s good. We didnâ€™t talk at all. We showed them whatâ€™s good on the court.â€ť
Bernier had nine points, seven coming in the second half, and was a force in the paint.
Teammate Jaekwon Spencer, was put at the foul line with the game in his hands and delivered clutch free throws in the hostile environment, scoring 12 of his game-high 20 points in the second half.
â€śIâ€™ve got a guy that has played 65 varsity games now,â€ť Rams head coach Tim Barrette said. â€śThatâ€™s something that most coaches donâ€™t have. Iâ€™m confident with him or [Isaiah] Miller [at the line]. The last two inbounds plays were designed for Isaiah or Jaekwon. Either one I was confident in stepping to the line to make the free throws at the end of the game to seal it.â€ť
Bristol Eastern had its chances, though. The Lancers were up one point midway through the fourth and senior Mac Goulet did everything he could in the final eight minutes. He scored seven of his nine points in the final quarter.
â€śOur season showed how much heart our team truly has,â€ť Goulet said following the loss. â€śNo matter the injuries or who went down, somebody was always there to step up.â€ť
Bristol Eastern controlled throughout the first, holding the lead for most of it.
The first four baskets for each team came on both of their first possessions. Bristol Easternâ€™s Nate Silva and Bristol Centralâ€™s Spencer traded off 3-pointers to begin. Following, Tyler Mason and Alex Lape each had buckets.
With the game tied up the Lancers went on a 6-0 run and scored on their first six possessions. Jake Lafferty put up a nice shot fake and then dropped in a hook shot. Goulet found Camryn Tate wide open down low and hit him for the bucket. Then Silva added to his point total with a layup as Bristol Eastern was out front early with a six-point lead.
Dathan Hickey snapped the run with a hard layup bringing the game closer.
Bristol Easternâ€™s freshman Elijah Parent hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the first half. Both of his buckets put the Lancers back ahead.
After the second one went down, the Lancers crowd chanted â€śheâ€™s a freshmanâ€ť and Bristol Centralâ€™s senior Noah Plantamuro took advantage knocking down a 3-pointer as Parent was out of position defensively.
Goulet struggled in the first half scoring but impacted the game in other ways with nice passes and rebounded the ball well.
â€śI wouldnâ€™t say one guy guarded Mac [Goulet],â€ť Bristol Eastern head coach Bunty Ray said. â€śI think they had a game plan against Mac. Coach Barrette is a good coach. Heâ€™s not going to let my leading scorer go out there and have his way. We talked about that. We were running sets that got other guys looks.â€ť
The Rams would close the six-point deficit to go into the half tied.
Coming into the second half it was set to be a battle just like the first and it was.
Lafferty hit back-to back 3-pointers for Bristol Eastern in the third to swing a five-point deficit into a lead. He finished with a team-high 10 points.
Lancers freshman guard Parent flashed his potential with a pair of 3-pointers in the game.
It could have gone either way but Bristol Central showed down the stretch why itâ€™s a 16-win team.
â€śWe didnâ€™t execute well tonight except for the last minute,â€ť Barrette said. â€śThat last minute of the game we followed what we were supposed to, we rebounded like we were supposed to and we made free throws like weâ€™re supposed to. Thatâ€™s how you win games, especially going to the tournament. Credit to our guys, 16-4 is a heck of a year and Iâ€™m proud of our guys.â€ť
The Rams will host the first-round game of the CCC tournament on Thursday night.
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org