BRISTOL â€• Trailing Berlin by 11 points to start the fourth quarter, Bristol Eastern girls basketball needed more points in the final eight minutes of the game Tuesday night than it scored in any of the previous quarters.
Potentially facing their third loss in a row after dropping a disappointing effort against Bristol Central on Saturday, the Lancersâ€™ offense was sputtering and in need of a boost to turn this game, and their season, in a more positive direction. All season long Eastern been searching for a reliable second scoring option to supplement 1,000-point scorer Ciara Collins, but continue relying on her heavily despite attracting the primary focus of opposing defenses.
The Lancersâ€™ offensive spark finally came in the fourth quarter against Berlin as they more than doubled their point total from the start of the period with 25 points to erase the deficit and defeat the Redcoats 43-40. Collins scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the final period, but was aided by nine points from fellow senior Janessa Gonzalez, who changed the complexion of the game with her rebounding in addition to her scoring, and helped Eastern shine some light on its season and come within one game of having a .500 record.
â€śWe were definitely in a hole, we didnâ€™t play our best on Saturday,â€ť Collins said. â€śWe got down on ourselves because of all the pressure that was on us and I think that reflected in the first half [against Berlin]. Once we realized we really need to step it up if we want to win this game and get out of the hole that we dug ourselves in, thatâ€™s when we decided to step it up and become tougher on defense and offense.â€ť
Shots started falling for the Lancers in the fourth quarter against Berlin in a way they were not in many previous games. They found a rhythm to their offense that was missing and began moving the ball in a way that created better scoring opportunities while also improving their rebounding efforts to create more chances at the basket.
â€śThey started executing their offense a lot better and shooting the ball [well] and being more aggressive,â€ť Floyd said. â€śCiara started to open up a little bit, too. She was able to create off the dribble and get guys open for nice shots. She was able to deliver some great assists.â€ť
Collins will always be the focal point of the offense, but the next step for her and the team is to find the right balance between running their sets and letting her create for herself and the players around her. A capable and willing passer, she needs to figure out how to initiate the offense in a way that gets her to the spots she wants to shoot from while also having outlets to find her teammates if the defense collapses on her.
â€śSheâ€™s starting to understand how to use her players and I think that is the biggest thing,â€ť Floyd said. â€śWeâ€™ve had trouble making her understand [she] has to take over at times and try to know how to use kids and motivate them. She did a good job directing them in the third and fourth quarter and thatâ€™s why we won this game. She took over and really settled everybody down, and directed traffic, and made some key rebounds and got everybody else going.â€ť
Defeating Berlin for the second time this season was crucial for the Lancers in the CCC South standing because they are still near the top of the division despite their 4-5 record overall. With another game against Middletown scheduled for Feb. 7, Eastern has a chance to avenge its loss from earlier this season and put itself in prime position to win the league.
â€śThis was a big one for them because they still have a shot in the league,â€ť Floyd said. â€śOur goal right now is to try to finish up strong and as the young kids get better and Emma [Stavens] comes back, weâ€™ll be a much stronger team.â€ť
The Lancers will look to continue this new groove they found Thursday on the road against Glastonbury. Halfway to a state tournament berth as they approach the midway point of the regular season, they are on track to hit their stride at the right time in the season. Getting sophomore Emma Stavens back will also be crucial for this team as she brings much of the scoring and rebounding the team is missing.
â€śWeâ€™re just trying to focus on improving every single game,â€ť Floyd said. â€śLast Saturday, we just didnâ€™t show up to the game. We didnâ€™t play defense, we didnâ€™t play offense, it was probably one our worst games weâ€™ve played this year. We werenâ€™t able to find a way to get out of the slump, [Tuesday] we did that. We started off slow, but they found a way to recover and make things happen.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com