BRISTOL - The crowd at Bristol Eastern was electric for the first 31 minutes of Monday nightâ€™s game, then Bristol Central boys basketball senior Jaekwon Spencer started shooting free throws.
There was a feeling in the gym the Lancersâ€™ postseason hopes had vanished and a minute later it became reality as Bristol Eastern was eliminated from having a chance to compete in the state tournament after the 46-42 loss.
It was a season that produced an emotional roller coaster with key injuries to Carter Dziedzic and Ariza Kolloverja and ended with a 7-13 record.
The Lancers, though, could have given up on the year but their seniors werenâ€™t going to let that happen and will remember their final season as the year where they never backed down.
The final game against the Rams truly embodied the groupâ€™s fight.
â€śAt the end of the year I went to a little bit different of a rotation,â€ť Bristol Eastern head coach Bunty Ray said. â€śBut I didnâ€™t need to [Monday]. Those seniors wanted to stay in the game and they knocked down shots and defended well. Thatâ€™s why they got the big minutes that they did. That just goes to show you that thereâ€™s something in their hearts. Iâ€™m proud of those guys and everybody on the team. It was a great, well fought rivalry game.â€ť
Following the game, Ray addressed his seniors.
â€śWe talked about what they did and what their legacy is,â€ť Ray said. â€śIf their legacy is how they competed in this game [Monday], you can see how much heart they have. Those guys battled for us all year long. They were great role models. Our seniors came in and not one of them was a varsity starter last year besides Tyler Mason. To give us a chance to make the tournament at the end [of the year] and compete in a lot of games that we did is impressive. If my younger kids can play as hard as my seniors did [against Bristol Central] I think the future is pretty good at Eastern.â€ť
As a program, Bristol Eastern took a step in the right direction and has some good young talent to build around.
Freshman Elijah Parent has shown his capabilities on the court as a shooter and a floor general.
â€śHeâ€™s definitely going to be a good player,â€ť Lancers senior Mac Goulet said. â€śIf he grows and gets in the weight room, heâ€™s going to be a really good player. He knows the game and has been around the game for awhile.â€ť
Brendan Gayle, Bryce Curtin and Matt Dâ€™Amato, meanwhile, will all be entering their junior years and should be improved.
All four will accompany Dziedzic and the other seniors in their final year next season. It will be a year with potential and this yearâ€™s senior class may not have made the tournament, but they set the tone for how Bristol Eastern basketball is meant to be played, to the final minute.
â€śThe future is definitely bright,â€ť Mason said. â€śThe JV team is a group of hard workers. They all work so excellent with each other. They have so much ahead of them and the freshmen do as well.â€ť
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org