By MICHAEL LETENDRE
Southington set the pace early, but the Knights’ three-game winning streak came to an end in Bristol. On Tuesday, Jan. 2, the Knights fell to Bristol Central, 56-48, in a Central Connecticut Conference crossover match.
Central (2-3) struggled early as the Knights (4-2) canned five of its first seven field goals, dictated pace and tempo, and the Rams found themselves trailing by ten points early in the second period.
Andrew Lohneiss (17 points) led the squad in scoring but Tim O’Shea (11) and Jeremy Mercier (seven) were the offensive spark plugs over the first eight minutes of the game—leading to a 16-point first period outburst for Southington.
“Let’s be honest, they execute well,” said Central coach Tim Barrette of Southington. “They were 4-1 for a reason. They execute well.”
But then Central brought a little defense to the fray in the second period, using a little 1-3-1 zone to get steals and once the Knights trailed on the scoreboard, the squad was never able to draw even again.
When the game’s tempo was played at a faster clip, that’s where Southington struggled. After scoring 16 points in the first period, the Knights notched only a combined 17 points over the next two periods of action, a credit to Central’s defense.
“We were able to go to that 1-3-1, we sped them up and we turned them over,” said Barrette. “We got some stops. We went to a couple different zones and in the second half, I thought we did a great job in the 2-3 [zone], taking away their best players and rebounding the basketball.”
And a ton of that turnover from Southington was forced by Central senior guard Isaiah Miller.
Miller kicked in a game-high 18 points, nabbed seven rebounds, and scooped up eight steals. Miller opened the evening with a three-pointer and Noah Plantamuro (nine points, three three-pointers) later followed up with one of his own, but in-between that time Southington scored 12 straight points to pick up a 12-6 edge with 1:03 left in the first.
The Knights led it 16-8 going into the second period but Miller’s steals started to get Central’s offense into gear.
Lohneiss canned a 3 with 4:09 to go in the half, making it a 21-15 contest but the visitors did not score again in the frame.
From there, Central went on a 10-0 run to capture the edge at the half.
Spencer and Lohneiss each hit two three-pointers in the third, Bernier (seven points) scored the final four points for Central in the stanza but when Ryan Gesnaldo made a steal and lay-up for the Knights, the Rams’ lead remained at four (37-33) with eight minutes to play.
Southington got it as close as 51-46 with 1:03 to play but in the end, the Rams were able to wrangle up an eight-point win.
“We took away their best players in the fourth quarter,” said Barrette. “We made somebody else beat us and we were able to rebound the basketball better in the fourth than the third quarter. I know that one possession in the third, we gave up six offensive rebounds. They outworked us [on that play] but in the end, we took care of the basketball, we didn’t turn it over, and we were able to make enough free throws to close out the game.”
“I wouldn’t say it was pretty but [we made] enough to close out the game.”
Now, the Knights will try to get back on track this week with divisional rivalries against Hall (1-4) and Conard (1-4) and a non-conference game against Bloomfield (4-1).
Michael Letendre is the Bristol Observer sports writer.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2018/01/10/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-jan-12-edition).