BRISTOL - The Bristol Eastern boys basketball team struggled at the varsity level this season, but the success of the freshman and junior varsity teams has the program in a good position moving forward.
The junior varsity team, coached by Ryan Raponey, finished 11-9, but won eight of its last nine games. Bristol Eastern’s freshmen, coached by David Parent, put together a 17-2 season.
“When you win at the younger levels, there’s a lot of excitement,” Lancers head coach Bunty Ray said. “I was really impressed with how they worked together as a team, even against teams that were more athletic. It’s going to be key to continue to develop chemistry.”
Sophomores Bryce Curtin, Matt D’Amato and Brendon Gayle had key roles on the junior varsity roster. Elijah Parent was a standout for the freshmen team.
All four also saw meaningful minutes for the Lancers this season at the varsity level and all four are going to be relied upon next season.
“I want these guys to be not just one year older, but a year better,” Ray said.
Drew Fries, Dylan Woodsome and Tyler Donohue were also key members of the strong freshmen group. The three are expected to have a chance to contribute at the varsity level next season.
Misiel Ortero’s absence made the freshmen team’s success that much more impressive. He is considered one of the better freshmen players the Lancers have in their program and didn’t play all season. Ortero is another guy that will look to earn varsity minutes.
“I truly believe that all those guys can compete for spots,” Ray said. “They’ll be counted on to push guys and could potentially play significant minutes.”
After losing star player Carter Dziedzic, a junior, just two games into the season, Bristol Eastern missed the postseason for the third consecutive year, losing some close games that likely would have gone the other way with Dziedzic on the floor.
“He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve seen in my 20 years of coaching,” Ray said. “He’s a kid that everybody can rally around. His personality and the quality of his character is what we missed the most.”
Dziedzic is set to draw much of the attention from opposing defenses next season, making the varsity experience the young guys gained this year extremely beneficial, as the Lancers will have four seniors on their roster next year. Defense is something to watch for as the speed of the game and talent level increases at the varsity level.
“We lost games because of inexperience this year,” Ray said. “We gained some of it this year as well. It comes down to shot making and I’m confident the young kids can make shots. Defense is going to be big for the group. Our JV and freshmen coaches did a great job preparing them. They’re very competitive kids, which is the most important thing.”
If the defense of the young guys improves and they add strength in the weight room in the offseason, Bristol Eastern will be a dangerous team.
The Lancers will be relying on the young players to improve.
“I’m expecting these younger kids to surprise people,” Ray said. “They’re going to pay attention to Carter a lot, but these younger guys can play.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org