BRISTOL - A tightly-contested matchup between the Bristol Eastern and Plainville boys basketball teams needed more than 32 minutes to decide a winner as the Lancers edged out a 58-53 home win in overtime against the Blue Devils on Monday night.
Eastern Senior guard Nasir Walker-Jenkins scored 13 of his 19 points after halftime and hit big shots at the end of the fourth quarter and overtime to keep the game close. Plainville scored six quick points to start the overtime period, Walker-Jenkins led the offense to retake the lead and stay ahead.
Junior Nate Fries anchored the late-game performance by making the layup that gave the Lancers the lead in overtime and then proceeded to close the game with his free throws. He scored five points in overtime and finished with nine points for the game.
“We took every punch and we answered,” Eastern head coach Bunty Ray said. “I thought both teams did a decent enough job defensively, but the shot-making down the stretch [was impressive].”
These teams opened their seasons against each other Dec. 16 with Plainville winning by 19 points. With both lineups looking different, the game played out differently as a healthier and more cohesive Eastern team, still missing senior Elijah Borgelin, took on a smaller and more guard-focused Plainville team that did not have senior Cameron Lamothe, who was the Blue Devils’ leading scorer the last time they met.
“It was a back-and-forth game and we had some things that didn’t go our way, but we always responded and never gave up,” Plainville head coach Scot Wenzel said. “We’re our own worst enemies. [We had] 22 turnovers. It’s very hard to win games when you’re giving the other team that many extra opportunities. It takes opportunities away from us and we did not do a good job taking care of the ball.”
The Blue Devils were derailed by their inability to protect the ball, finishing with 22 turnovers behind poor decision making.
Consecutive three-pointers from Artem Mojica and Jon Marfia gave the Blue Devils a six-point lead almost immediately after overtime started. That was Plainville’s largest lead of the game and it could have been one point bigger because Marfia was fouled on his shot, but missed the free throw.
Lukas Sward answered back with a three for Eastern and a layup from Walker-Jenkins cut the deficit to one point. The Lancers forced a turnover on Plainville’s next possession and Walker-Jenkins found Fries under the basket for the lead-taking layup.
Plainville senior Artem Mojica split a pair of free throws to tie the game, but Walker-Jenkins answered back immediately with a difficult floater from the right side to give Eastern a 55-53 lead. The Blue Devils failed to respond and Fries’ foul shots finished the job.
“We took every punch and we answered,” Ray said. “I thought both teams did a decent enough job defensively, but the shot-making down the stretch [was impressive].”
Tied 44-44 with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Walker-Jenkins briefly gave the Lancers the lead with a pair of free throws. George James scored for Plainville on the ensuing possession with a spinning layup to tie the score at 46. A charge against Walker-Jenkins on Eastern’s next possession gives the ball back to the Blue Devils, but a charge is called against and Eastern has the ball with 27.7 seconds left.
Trying to hold for the last shot, the Lancers let the clock tick down before trying to score, but ultimately came up unsuccessful. They had two chances to score, but missed both and went to overtime.
Both defenses locked in directly after halftime as the scoring started slowly in the third quarter, but not much changed once shots started falling. The Lancers’ two-point lead became a one-point lead after eight more minutes of play as both sides had answers for every shot the other side made.
Mojica finished a difficult layup while fouled and completed the and-one to give the Blue Devils a lead late in the quarter, but Eastern snuck back ahead with a pair of quality baskets.
A quick 7-0 run from the Lancers to start the second quarter put them in front and helped them carry a lead into halftime. Sophomore Ben D’Amato hit a three-pointer to give his team the lead on the first shot of the period and they strung together a couple of more scores to build a lead.
The Blue Devils kept the score close led by seven points in the second quarter from sophomore Joe Vasques. They retook the lead late in the frame, but Eastern scored just before halftime to go to the locker room with a two-point advantage.
Next up for the Lancers will be a road contest against Conard (7-1) on Thursday at 6:45 while the Blue Devils are off until they host Wethersfield (3-4) on Friday at 6:45.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org