BRISTOL - Bunty Ray sat at the table in the office behind the gym and leaned back in his chair.
It was about 15 minutes after the Bristol Eastern boys basketball team had lost to Plainville, a game in which the Lancers found themselves down early and battled back, only to come up short in the closing seconds.
So as his assistant coaches stood nearby Monday night, the head coach looked around the room and offered up an honest assessment of what had just transpired on the court: He needs his players to work harder.
“I expect them to win,” Ray said. “I expect them to compete and play hard. I expect them to pay attention to detail, so I expect a lot. They’re giving me everything they got, they just need to give me a little bit more.”
It might sound a little tough, especially considering three of the team’s seven scorers against the Blue Devils - Dylan Woodsome, Elijah Parent and Trinidad Otero - are sophomores and there’s sure to be growing pains along the way.
But Ray doesn’t like excuses, not for himself or his players.
It’s why when Carter Dziedzic, Bristol Eastern’s best player, went down with an injury at Avon on Saturday the head coach expected his team to continue to perform at a high level. It didn’t matter the role or the number of minutes the players had prior to then.
“We don’t let them make excuses,” Ray said of his players. “We’re not going to say, ‘because we’re young.’ That’s not acceptible. We just have to get better.”
The results since Dziedzic has been out of the lineup have been noticeable.
The Lancers lost by eight to Avon - which snapped a three-game winning streak that saw the Bristol team score 56 points or more in each contest - before losing by seven to Plainville. And Ray is hoping to have the senior back sooner rather than later to help the lineup get settled back to normal.
At the same time, there were some positives to take away, especially as Monday’s game entered the final minutes.
Down by six, Bristol Eastern capitalized on a pair of missed free throws by the Blue Devils, allowing Otero to hit a 3-pointer. The Lancers then forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play, giving them a chance to tie the game.
There was also the double-digit deficit Bristol Eastern was able to slowly chip away at in the first half, which allowed the second half to play out in a more back-and-forth fashion, including four lead changes.
Jahcyrus Lawrence-Bynum and Brendon Gayle performed well at times, too, as the Lancers’ leading scorers that night.
“I was proud of them,” Ray said. “But there were some intensity things out there that I was disappointed with. [Plainville] beat us to some loose balls and some 50-50 balls that gave them some second-chance opportunities. I think looking back, that was the biggest takeaway that I was most upset about.”
“But I thought the whole game was positive for what we did out there,” he added. “Some of that is just kids making mistakes that need to be corrected. I was very pleased with a lot of things. When we went into the locker room after the game, we just talked about the fine points of the game. There was nothing major.”
So with the second half of the schedule set to get underway, Ray knows the increased minutes for his younger players are only going to help in the long run. They just have to go out and prove they’ve earned them.
But the head coach believes they’re more than up to the task.
“There’s no excuses here,” Ray said. “Who’s ever out there has to do the job. I’m just looking to see how those young guys perform in these situations.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org