By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Plainville High School boys basketball team was right on the cusp of its first victory of the season against Bristol Eastern on Monday, February 4.
With a halftime lead in hand and a good third period showing, it looked as if both teams would be battling to a near stalemate entering the final stanza of play and with the Blue Devils right where they wanted to be.
But Plainville simply couldn’t get over the hump to capture the win and ultimately fell by 11, 55-44, in a CCC South confrontation from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium on the campus of Bristol Eastern.
The victory propelled the Lancers to 8-7 with Eastern qualifying for the state tournament for the sixth straight season while the Blue Devils fell to 0-16 with four games left to play.
Plainville played some truly inspired basketball and in a tremendous second period of action, the Blue Devils outscored the home team 18-7, leading by three at one point before taking a 28-27 push into intermission.
“It’s the effort that these kids give,” said Wesoly about Plainville’s second period success. “It started with defense. In that second quarter, we come back, we’re up one at halftime (and) that’s what we’re about. We were down but we didn’t give up.”
“We did not give up at all and I’m so proud of the kids right now.”
Eric Fischer was outstanding on the evening, netting a game-best 22 points while also hauling down 12 rebounds and blocking countless Eastern shots.
He drained buckets from inside and out and when the Eastern defense pushed him to the brink, the nifty Fischer pushed right back with drives to the hoop, mid-range jumpers, and huge three-pointers.
“He’s stepping up big time,” said Wesoly of Fischer. “He’s taking on that leadership role we’ve been waiting for. This is his third game in a row he’s put some (major) points on the board and that’s what we need.”
Bristol Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo also was left impressed with the talented junior.
“Fischer’s a talented kid,” said Giovinazzo. “He could go to the hoop, he could hit pull up jumpers, shoots three-pointers…. He’s a very tough match-up. Mike (Belton) did a great job on him the first time we played him but he made some adjustments tonight and he was really tough.”
But Fischer wasn’t alone in those efforts as Shane Pugliese chipped in with 10 points off the bench and played his usual good defense. Meanwhile, Matt Thomas scored all seven of his points in a first period burst of offense.
Brian Dostaler also contributed to the cause with four points – two of those coming off a critical offensive rebound and put-back to lead the Blue Devils.
For Eastern, Kevin Love – Eastern’s leading scorer on the season – contributed with 14 points and a game high 15 rebounds.
But, unlike the first time when he buried Plainville for 33 points, the Blue Devils wouldn’t let Love go off offensively as the visitors used a combination of box-and-ones, zones, and other various defenses to keep the pressure on the sophomore.
Credit belonged to Tyler Favreau and Thomas who both were extra physical with Love and allowed him very few precious looks at the hoop.
Eastern’s Ryan Chiasson proved to be an irritant all night long and picked up a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Belton led the Lancers with 17 points and cashed in on a career best of nine rebounds.
Other than that, Plainville’s defense kept Bristol’s guards in check as the duo of Gabe Ungaro and George Taylor were forced into 3-for-16 shoot ing from the field and scored only 10 points in the game.
One of the critical moments of the showdown came at the end of the third period as Plainville, with the ball and trailing by only three points, lost a chance to make it a one-point game or tie it up.
Chiasson and Plainville’s Austin Butler were battling for position and the battle got a bit heated.
Butler was called for an offensive foul and then shoved Chiasson in the back, resulting in a technical foul and, unfortunately for the sophomore, picking up his fifth foul off the play and was disqualified from the game.
It was a critical miscue but a learning experience for the talented Butler.
“It was a learning experience,” said Wesoly of Butler play. “He’s a sophomore and (Chiasson) is a senior and he knows how to play the game. Chiasson gets a little chippy with (Butler) and he kind of lost his cool. It was a sophomore mistake and that’s what I told him.”
“We needed him out there. It hurt us. But we didn’t lose the game because of it…he knows that and he’ll learn from it.”
For Eastern, that technical foul and ensuing points were a big lift for the struggling team.
To Plainville’s credit, the squad never gave up and cut the deficit to 49-44 with 1:53 left remaining in the contest.
However, that’s as close as Plainville would get in the game as Eastern scored the final six points to seal the deal.
The Blue Devils fell behind early in the fray, trailing 15-5 off five straight points from Belton with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
Plainville hung around to end the frame – getting another basket from Fischer off a brilliant feed from Thomas – as Eastern led 20-10 eight minutes into things.
Belton hit his third three-pointer of the game with 7:03 left in the second quarter as Eastern’s lead was 23-14.
But Plainville’s defense came alive and Eastern went over 6:30 without scoring a solitary point.
Fischer netted seven points of the team’s 12-0 run as that offensive rebound and hoop from Dostaler propelled the Blue Devils to a 26-23 push with 1:35 left in the half.
Plainville led 28-27 at the half and to start the third frame, it was a back and forth affair again.
An offensive rebound and put-back by Love was met with a quick turnaround from Fischer that kept the visitors in front.
But Eastern ended the quarter on a 12-4 jaunt and after the Chiasson free throws – off the Butler technical foul – and a quick jumper by the senior, the Lancers reassumed control and led 41-34 with one period left.
“They were a hungry team,” said Giovinazzo of Plainville. “You could see it in the style of play. It was very physical and aggressive. I told (my players) at halftime, you’ve got a team that wants this bad. And their intensity level is high. I said (to the players) you’re going to match it in order survive in the second half and we did.”
Plainville’s offense went a bit cold in the fourth as the squad scored one hoop over the first 4:23 of the stanza.
Two free throws by Belton with 4:13 remaining made it a 45-36 game in Eastern’s favor.
Impressively, the Blue Devils made one last gasp run and off an 8-4 push – with blazing three-pointers coming from Fischer and Pugliese – Plainville made it a five point game with 1:53 left.
While Plainville didn’t win the game, their play against the Lancers means victory number one is right around the corner.
“It shows that we don’t give up and it shows that we gave effort,” said Wesoly. “I’m not the type of person that if it doesn’t say we’re winning on the scoreboard, it’s not a victory. We’ll take something from this and it’s my kids don’t give up. It’s all a credit to them and their parents.”