Bristol Eastern girls basketball looking to get hot at right time

Published on Tuesday, 15 February 2022 21:40
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

BRISTOL ― Defeating Bristol Central on Monday night was an important win for Bristol Eastern girls basketball as their regular season comes to an end.

Not only did the Lancers earn a win over their crosstown rivals and avenge their loss from a month ago, their first against the Rams since 2004, they earned their spot in the Class L state tournament and snuck into the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament as the 16th-seeded team.

Suffering an overtime-loss and three other losses by four points or fewer, Eastern’s postseason hopes did not need to come down to the wire, but a lack of depth and players missing time compounded the problems. Now fully healthy and the victory over Central giving them three wins in their last four games, the Lancers are in position to surprise some teams in the playoffs.

“People come in looking at our record and think [they can win],” senior Ciara Collins said. We can hang in there with anyone as long as we come out to play. We have to play defense, we have to rebound and we’re with any team. We can make it pretty far in the tournament I think.”

Collins continued her dominant scoring season with a 24-point performance against Central to lead all scorers. She struggled to find the basket early, but was the main architect to the Lancers’ lead by scoring 18 points after halftime.

The players around Collins are also starting to find a rhythm, which is equally important to Collins leading the offense. Most of Eastern’s wins required a second player to make a significant impact, scoring or otherwise, and if those contributions come consistently, the Lancers will be a tough out moving forward.

Eastern led Central at halftime despite Collins’ early struggles and were lifted up by junior Taigan Parent, who finished with 16 points and drilled three three-pointers. Senior captain Janessa Gonzalez also added 11 points in the game, but made her biggest impact under the basket, as she grabbed eight offensive rebounds and finished with a double-double.

“We just have to play four quarters, that's a big thing,” Collins said. “Our third quarter is always pretty weak coming out of halftime. We have to play really good defense, switch on screens, we have to communicate and we have to rebound and we can hang with any team in the tournament.”

Another notable improvement for the Lancers was sophomore Emma Stavens’ recent return to the lineup after missing several games. Staven notched five points, including a three, against Central, but more importantly added size and experience the team was lacking.

“It gives me some depth and floor leadership,” Eastern head coach Tony Floyd said. “She’s able to keep us calm and run plays, she handles the ball well. She’s working on getting in shape, she’s not in game shape yet, which is tough. I think every game we have the better she’ll be, she’ll be good by the tournament.”

Stavens serves as one of the Lancers’ primary ball handlers and her return takes some pressure off of the younger players who were called on in her absence. She made her presence felt early on, as she found Collins under the basket right before halftime for an assist. Stavens showed quick decision-making skills on the fast break as she fed Collins after the player with the ball before Stavens did not see the senior open for a layup.

Floyd expects having Stavens back will help the team play at the pace it wants to on both ends of the court.

“We want to improve on our defense,” Floyd said. “At times we look really good, but we’re just not consistent. We just want to be consistent out there defensively and do a better job of getting back in our transition. We haven’t had our transition game since Emma left, now I think we can get it back.”

Eastern is slated to face top-seeded Newington in the first round of the CCC Tournament on Thursday in a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, which Newington won by 20. The Nor’easters also defeated the Lancers 55-41 on Feb. 2, a game in which Collins said she was pleased with how they played for part of the contest.

“When we come to play, we come to play, and we can beat anyone,” Collins said. “We hung in there with big teams, we hung in there with Newington for a while and we hung in there with Windsor.”

Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or mhornick@bristolpress.com



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol Eastern on Tuesday, 15 February 2022 21:40. Updated: Tuesday, 15 February 2022 21:42.