By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – The Plainville boys basketball team ran into a buzz saw on Tuesday, Jan. 8 against Bristol Eastern.
Motivated by a near buzzer-beating effort against Berlin the previous game, the Lancers were hungry for another victory.
And unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Eastern feasted off the home squad, aided by an outstanding season high scoring effort from sophomore Kevin Love, the Lancers ran Plainville ragged in a dominating 75-41 CCC South romp from the Ivan Wood Gymnasium.
Eastern’s defense was suffocating as Plainville’s offensive was slammed in reverse from the start and that effort had an effect on both sides of the ball.
The Lancers scored 12 of the first 13 points in the game – including a steal and dunk by Mike Belton (10 points, three steals) as defense ruled the day for the visiting team.
“We had to be on the top of our defensive game tonight,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “We couldn’t let them get any confidence early. We had to really get after them and that obviously worked. That got us transition early and when you get some easy baskets early, then everything falls into place.”
Trailing by 11 points off the bat, the Blue Devils were unable to make a game of it as Eastern just poured it on with steals that turned into points in the paint via lay-ups.
Love, Eastern’s leading scorer on the campaign, pumped in a season-high 33 points to go along with eight rebounds and two assists in a dominating effort.
He canned 13 of 18 field goals in the fray while collecting six offensive rebounds to simply overwhelm the Blue Devils.
“The kid, Love, is good,” said Plainville coach Marc Wesoly. “But when you give him 22 points in the paint, you’re not going to beat a lot of teams like that.”
In all, the Lancers tallied 21 assists off 31 baskets in an impressive effort. Both were season highs for the visitors.
“It’s a young team and sometimes they go out there and you wonder what they’re thinking ,” said Giovinazzo of Eastern. “But tonight, the ball was just snapping around, going from one guy to the other inside-out. You couldn’t have asked for better offense.”
Ryan Chiasson added 10 points and three assists while George Taylor notched eight points and dished out three assists for Eastern.
Gabe Ungaro collected seven points, five rebounds, and five assists for the Lancers, now 5-3 overall and 3-1 in CCC South play.
Even the bench got involved in it as Rory Wohllebe and Tyquon Clark each scored their first points of their varsity career.
But defense fueled the Lancers offense on the evening as 16 steals by Eastern led to dunks, lay-ups, and uncontested jumpers.
“The key was our defense,” said Love about the victory. “Defense is all of it. We stopped them, got on our fast breaks, scored…we just took it from there.”
Love lived on the baseline as every Eastern player fed the talented sophomore as the Lancers shot a blazing 62.5 percent from the field in the first half of action.
Plainville’s Eric Fischer and Matt Thomas each netted 10 points for the Blue Devils (0-8) while Tyler Favreau added nine against a very overwhelming opponent.
Shane Pugliese notched six points but Plainville simply couldn’t string any points together as the Lancers led from wire to wire.
“It’s very difficult to find out what our problem is because our kids are great,” said Wesoly. “They hate losing as much as I do. We’ve never had that before. When I took this job five years ago, they accepted losing. They don’t accept losing (now) because they come back to practice every single day and they work hard.”
With the 12-1 deficit on the board, Thomas connected on a conventional three-point play with 5:21 left to go in the first period but Eastern’s scoring spree was just beginning.
Taylor drilled back-to-back three-pointers while Thomas hit one of his own but off the make by Plainville, the Lancers went on a little mini run.
Off an 8-3 jaunt, Love scored five straight points and Ungaro drilled a three-point play as the 27-10 push with 1:20 left in the fray gave the visitors a tremendous advantage.
“When we run our offense, we score,” said Wesoly. “And, for some reason, we don’t want to do it a second time. And if (opponents) take something away, we substitute and that’s how we fix things. Something breaks, we substitute with something. We do it in practice but we don’t do it out here (on the court).”
Off a hoop from Favreau, Love hit one last jumper as his 11 first quarter points made it a 29-12 contest after eight minutes of action.
And then, to open the second quarter, another Eastern run ensued.
The Lancers piled up a15-3 burst as Love and Chiasson hit 14 of those points, giving Eastern a 44-15 push with 3:27 left before the half.
Eastern’s lead eventually topped out at 31 and at the half, the Lancers were in front by a comfortable 51-21 tally.
The Blue Devils came out firing in the third stanza as Fischer and Haris Mehovic (three points) rallied Plainville off a 6-2 push as it forced a couple Eastern turnovers and made it a 53-27 contest with 6:38 left in the quarter.Fischer hit for four additional points later in the period but off offensive rebound put-backs by Love and Chiasson, the Lancers went in front 63-35 with one frame left to play.
Eastern’s defense held into the final period as the Blue Devils scored only six points.
The Lancers ended the game off a 12-4 jaunt with the visitors picking up a 34 point victory in Plainville.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Giovinazzo of the victory. “When you have a young team, you want to see positive steps every game and I’ve seen positive steps tonight.”
NOTES…Eastern only had one turnover in the first half, and that came with 0.4 seconds left to play before intermission…The win was the third largest in the series for the Lancers against Plainville with only an 81-44 victory back on Feb. 26, 1990 and a 75-36 thumping on Jan. 15, 2010 bigger in terms of margins of victory.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com
By MICHAEL LETENDRE