By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Everything was falling for the Bristol Central boys basketball team against crosstown rival Bristol Eastern on Friday, Jan. 24.
Some of that was expected when your squad employs a seven-foot, fired up giant on the Rams’ side of the floor.
But when that same squad drops in nine three-pointers, nearly collects two dozen assists, and plays near flawless basketball while the Lancers could not duplicate any of those feats, it led to an easy win victory Central.
Clingan was in charge from the onset – collecting a game-high 28 points – to lead Central over Eastern by a 76-35 final in a CCC South, Patriot division match-up from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium on the campus of Bristol Central high school.
And the Rams (9-2) outworked the Lancers (5-5) in every phase of the game from start to finish.
“I didn’t want the bye week but the bye week definitely gave us a little bit more time to be fundamentally sound,” said Central coach Tim Barrette. “Elijah [Parent’s] been playing great and he’s a deadly shooter but obviously tonight, we had a focus on really trying to take that away. Him and [Jordyn] Tate have been playing great, that was our focus tonight and it makes it a lot easier when you have a big guy inside that can take care of the rest.”
Eastern was hanging around in the middle of the second quarter, trailing just 21-13, but a 12-0 spurt by Central over a span of 2:52 put the visitors behind by a 33-13 push with 36 seconds remaining before intermission.
Then the floodgates opened in the third period as Eastern completely deviated from its game plan and watched the Rams hit shots from all over the court as the game got out of control.
“They slaughtered us,” said Eastern coach Bunty Ray. “They got the ball inside, they made shots, [and] they did whatever they wanted.”
Clingan was a beast and that 28-point showing also included a 12-for-12 performance from the field, 11 rebounds, six blocked shots, eight dunks and an icing-on-the-cake three-pointer – his third of the campaign.
“The guy is a 7-footer and he’s a good player,” said Ray of Clingan. “He made everybody better tonight.”
And that nine three-point attack was fueled by Sean Wininger who tied his season-high with 13 points, which included three 3s – all coming over a two-minute stretch that helped change the complexion of the game for good during the second period.
“He’s been playing well the last four or five weeks,” said Barrette of Wininger. “Ever since he went to the power forward position, he’s really stepped up. He’s been averaging 11 points and eight rebounds pretty much the last five games. Tonight, he actually missed his first 3 and then he got really rolling. Once he made that first one, he was really on a roll.”
Everyone added something to the mix for the Rams as Shane Ouellette pumped in eight points, Victor Rosa canned a 3, Carson Rivoira added a second period bucket and Glasper hit two free throws before the reserves came in to play the entire fourth period.
The Lancers were down two players as Dylan Woodsome and Trini Otero – two perimeter players that were sorely missed – were injured while Central point guard Austin Brown was sick and missed the game as well.
But the contest was afoot early as Parent (team-high 14 points) and Tate (five points, three rebounds) canned early buckets and off a Drew Fries (nine points) 3, Eastern had the deficit chopped to 9-7 with 3:12 remaining in the first.
Clingan and Ouellette then hit consecutive hoops before floaters by Nasir Walker and Elijah Borgelin (six points, two assists) made it a two-point game late in the tilt as Central settled on a 14-11 edge after eight minutes of action.
Two consecutive dunks from Clingan opened second quarter play and was followed by Wininger’s first three but when Parent hit a jumper with 3:28 left in the half, Eastern trailed just 21-13 before the game truly collapsed on the Lancers.
“In the beginning, we were playing hard,” said Ray. “Then it just got out of control. Central started making shots. We’re not very deep. It wasn’t fatigue. They made shots, they got the ball and Clingan had about ten dunks down there. What are you going to do?”
That 12-0 run – 19-3 overall in the second period by Central – saw the Rams take complete control and even as Borgelin finished out the second quarter with a free throw, the home team led 33-14 at the half with more to come quickly in the third stanza.
“Like I said, the shooters had good nights,” said Ray of Central. “I don’t know if they shot the ball like that all year but that’s not my problem. My problem is you can’t take something away without giving something. Credit [Central]. They played a great game.”
Eastern came out flat again in the third period as Clingan notched eight straight points for Central, including more dunks and put-backs, as a 17-2 spurt – capped by Clingan’s three-point bomb – made it a 50-16 game with 1:51 left to go in the period.
“We were holding them on defense and then we were able throw the ball to the big guy and that’s an aggressiveness I had not seen this year or in his career,” said Barrette of Clingan. “I mean, he dunked everything tonight. We yell at him in practice every day to dunk everything. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t but tonight, he was ready to go when I saw him at 12 o’clock today.”
“He was shaking, all ready to play.”
It did not get any better for the Lancers over the final quarter as the deficit reached 40-plus.
Parent and Fries hit jumpers midway through the fourth but Central reserves Maliki Matthews (four points), Eli Rodriguez (five), and Robert Negron-Cruz all made shots late before Dom Amara scored his first varsity hoop with 43 seconds to play.
The Lancers then took a late timeout off Parent’s final 3 of the game with 30 seconds remaining.
“We’re not putting this behind us,” said Ray. “I took that time out at the end of the game for a reason. I wasn’t happy with the effort at the end of the game. That’s not Eastern, that’s not what we do. We had some lopsided losses but we never went out and looked lackadaisical. We had a deer in the headlights look on offense, we prepared for it but we just didn’t play sharp.”
“We didn’t run hard cuts, we didn’t do the things offensively that we practiced, we did them half-speed and half-speed isn’t good enough in the CCC especially here against a first place team and against one of the better teams in the league.”
In the end, it was a 75-36 triumph for the Rams as the squad was about to embark on its toughest stretch of the season with games against the class of the CCC on the horizon.
“You’d be dumbfounded to think you’ll see this the next time,” said Barrette of the next BC/BE showdown. “You know you’re going to get a battle no matter what. We took their shot early. I think they were up a little bit early. We went up 9-4, they closed the deficit and then we went on that run. That’s been our strength, the end of the second and the beginning of the third quarter. That eight minute span has definitely been [when] our guys get comfortable. Sometimes, I think that’s our youth. We only had one senior out there tonight.”
“Sometimes, I feel it takes our guys 12 minutes to get into the flow of the game. The problem is the hammer’s coming up against East Catholic and Windsor. You can’t take 12 minutes to get into a game because you’ll be down 25 before you know it.”