By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Any time the Plainville girls basketball team can march into Bristol and pick up a victory on foreign soil, it’s a sweet feeling indeed.
It doesn’t matter if it’s at Bristol Eastern or Central – just notching a win against a Bell City opponent is a big deal.
In the Blue Devils case, it ended up being a major triumph over the Rams as Plainville downed the Bristol outfit by a 35-27 final from Bristol Central High School on Saturday, Jan. 18.
It was the second straight victory for the Blue Devils (7-4 overall, 3-3 CCC South) as Plainville took the initial lead in the contest and never relinquished it.
Kelsey Clemens racked up another impressive outing with 19 points, 12 points and three blocked shots in a full evening’s work.
The Blue Devils just got enough offense out of everyone else and that kept pesky Central (8-3 overall, 3-3 CCC South) at bay.
Rachel Lancaster zipped in five points and kept the ball moving in Plainville’s offensive schemes while Step Martino nailed a huge three-pointer and tallied five points as well.
Deja Nolan was a defensive pest all night long, making numerous steals and setting up her teammates for shots while Nicole Davis (two points) and Lauren Taylor (two) each had back-breaking hoops to keep the Blue Devils on top.
And the stints that Jess Masco had on the floor contributed to the winning effort in Bristol.
“That’s another thing we’ve talked about in great detail…every single person on the floor has to be ready to contribute and step up,” said Plainville coach Jen Gombotz. “They went to box-and-one today (on Clemens). I told the girls, I challenged the other players ‘If they going to try to take Kelsey out of the game, in order to get them to switch, other players have to hurt them because they’re saying by guarding Kelsey that they can’t.’”
“That’s what we’re working on now…having other people contribute.”
Offensively, it was all Plainville early.
In fact, it was that clever ball-movement that helped get Central’s defense moving and opened up Clemens inside for high percentage shots.
“We worked a lot against the zone this week because Central traditionally plays zone against us,” said Gombotz. “We were prepared for a 2-3 but they played a 3-2. I thought we made an adjustment really well by moving the ball around.”
Defense also ruled the day for the Blue Devils as Central’s offense wasn’t allotted more than eight points in any one quarter.
And it was that defense that fueled Plainville late as the visiting squad made only one field goal over the final 4:59 of action.
Off a three-pointer by Lauren Vallee with 2:19 left to play, Central got within four at 31-27 but never scored again.
In all, the Blue Devils forced the Rams into 21 turnovers.
“We’ve always said that if our defense keeps teams to under 10 points a quarter, that we’ll have a shot in the game,” said Gombotz. “That’s exactly what we did today. We held them to three in the first quarter, which was an amazing start and 11 (total) in the first half.”
“You can’t complain about that defensive effort tonight.”
Central’s Chandler Walker had another double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds with three blocks while Erika Monsalve added eight points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
Vallee zipped in five points and five rebounds while Ali Martel came off the pine for two points, two rebounds and a team-high five assists.
Christina Bouvier added two rebounds, as did Jenn Fannon, while Esharra Walton added four rebounds off the bench.
Clemens scored the first four points of the contest while Lancaster threw in a lay-up and with 2:49 left to go in the first frame, Plainville led by a neat 6-0 tally.
Monsalve finally got the Rams on the board via a three-point play with 2:13 showing on the clock but Clemens ended the fray with two charity tosses as the Blue Devils led 8-3 after one.
The Rams opened the second tilt off a 6-2 jaunt as a Walker lay-in, assisted off a nice feed by Martel, got Central within one at 10-9 with 5:59 left before the half.
Nolan and Walker exchanged buckets. But Central couldn’t snap the deficit. Off Walker’s lay up with 3:30 left before intermission, the Rams didn’t score in the half again.
Clemens ended the stanza with six consecutive points – 14 in all in the first half – as Plainville led by a comfortable 18-11 push at the break.
Out of the third period gate, Walker and Monsalve hit back-to-back buckets but a blazing three-pointer by Martino propelled Plainville to a 21-15 edge with 4:58 left in the period.
Late in the quarter, Walker put in a hoop while Davis hit a huge runner to close out the period as the Blue Devils nabbed a 24-19 lead going into the final eight minutes of action.
Monsalve opened the final quarter with a free throw. Plainville went on a 6-0 run to post a double figure lead in the showdown.
First, Clemens nailed a runner. Tanner flipped in an amazing hook shot. And Clemens ended the jaunt with another hoop. With 4:59 left to play, Plainville’s 30-20 cushion might as well been 20 points as Central was a bit offensively challenged on the evening.
But the Rams never caved in and made one last stab at it.
Martel found Walker for two straight hoops and off Vallee’s three-point blast, Central was in striking distance at 31-27 with 2:19 remaining.
But the comeback stalled out as critical steals by Clemens, Nolan, and Tanner kept the Rams off the board late.
Martino was fouled for a one-and-one opportunity at the line but missed the first attempt with 45.9 seconds left.
Plainville somehow maintained possession and Martino was forced to the line once again.
This time, she calmly drained both attempts in a nearly quiet Central gymnasium. With 43.9 seconds showing on the clock, it was a 33-27 game in Plainville’s favor.
Fourteen seconds later, Nolan had another steal and found Lancaster for a lay-up. With 30 seconds left, the Blue Devils’ cushion grew to eight at 35-27.
It was the final nail in the coffin for Central, leading to a huge win in Bristol for Plainville.
“It’s tough coming in here,” said Gombotz, “and we’re glad to leave with a ‘W.’”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.