By KEN MORSE
The Plainville boys basketball team lifted a heavy weight off their shoulders on Thursday afternoon putting an end to a streak they would much rather forget than dwell on.
The Blue Devils finished a game on the winning side of the ledger for the first time after 23 straight losses. They did it in grand fashion jumping out to a 14-3 lead over Haddam-Killingworth and cruised to victory by a 69-36 final margin.
All streaks come to an end eventually but what stood out was the fact that the game before may have been the most disappointing loss in the streak that lasted a little more than a season.
In the opening game of the Rybczyk Memorial Holiday Tournament on Wednesday, the Blue Devils took on SMSA (Sports and Medical Science Academy of Hartford) but fell short by a heart breaking 38-37 final.
Plainville battled back from a 7-0 early deficit to tie the game at the half when Sam Lestini, Jason Mills, Jailen Lindsey and Brady Callahan all knocked down shots in the second quarter come back.
Ben Dougherty, Callahan, and Pierre Ramirez all scored eight points each to lead the way. The Blue Devils had the ball trailing by a point but a missed opportunity at the buzzer had Plainville feeling, what will it take to end this streak of futility.
“We just needed to keep our head up and keep working hard,” said Dougherty who scorched the nets for a team high 22 points on the strength of 5 three-pointers in the win over Haddam-Killingworth.
“We needed to come out and play solid team basketball. That’s what we did to put this game in the win column.”
The Blue Devils went right after it building a 14-3 advantage over the Cougars. Once Plainville built the lead, they turned it up a notch and took over the game with a 20-10 second quarter to open a 34-13 halftime lead.
“We trust in what coach tells us and we trust in each other,” said Callahan (12 points, 8 assists). “We don’t focus on the scoreboard. We are focused on the process and we feel we have the guys who get turn this around.”
What helped to turn this game around was consistency on the offensive end with Lestini, Ramirez and Dane Stephens all scoring eight points each. Nathan Johnson needed six of his seven points in the final quarter.
“I just told the kids not to change up what we did yesterday,” said Plainville head coach Jim DiNello. “It really shows the character of this team to come out and not let the final results of yesterdays game affect us.”
“We talked a lot about not paying attention to the scoreboard and let the process work and the results will come. Doing the little things right. Having a great attitude and staying positive.”
Plainville came out in the second half with that same mentality and instead of sitting on the lead they continued to push the ball up the floor and attack the ball on defense.
Alec Karal and Mills filled in underneath giving the Blue Devils a presence in the paint. Stephens buried a three-pointer from the top of the key and Dougherty took a pair of passes from Callahan and converted them from behind the three-point arc as Plainville went into the final quarter with a commanding 51-28 lead.
“When we do the things that we do in practice sooner or later the scoreboard will eventually turn into our favor,” said DiNello. “After every practice and every game we want to ask ourselves the question how did we do on playing with energy and enthusiasm. If the kids can respond to those questions in a positive way then we are headed in the right direction.”
Alec Couture, Will Cross, and Tyler Davis came on in the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils were giving the bench some minutes to build depth. Plainville closed the deal when Tyshawn Johnson dished off an assist to Ryan Snyder down on the baseline for the final bucket in the 69-36 victory.
“For us to be successful, we need to have five guys working in unison on both ends of the floor,” said DiNello. “We don’t want guys to try and take over games or trying to do too much. We want help defense and good rotation on offense and let the guy who has the open look take the shot.”
“You can see it in our scoring lately that several guys can put the ball in the basket and that is what it’s going to take in order to be successful. We are a young team and we are going to make those young mistakes. But in the long run it’s about playing together as a team that is going to be the most effective for us.”
“We will savor this win and then get back to work and try to build on this. Everyone has to do their job. The guys under the basket need to do the dirty work and battle for the rebounds. The guys out on the wing need to get the ball to the open shooter. Bottom line is we all have a job description and if we all do our job we are going to be okay.”
Plainville was back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 2 at home against Rocky Hill.
PHOTOS by PATRICK MATTHEWS