By KEN MORSE
If the first 12 minutes of the season opener against Hall was any indication of what Plainville can bring to the court each night then the Blue Devils are in for a fun ride this season.
Plainville opened the season taking on a Hall team that didn’t finish as the Class LL runner-up by accident. The Warriors are one of the top ranked teams in the state and for a better part of the first half the Blue Devils were in this game.
It was a four point game with Plainville trailing 23-19 with 3:30 to play in the first half. Shortly thereafter, the Blue Devils two senior captains Sam Lozefski and Caitlin Barker went to the bench with foul trouble.
Hall went on the attack in a relentless fury, going on an 18-0 run to take a commanding 41-19 lead at the break. The Blue Devils rolled up their sleeves and continued to battle getting outscored in the second half by a slim 35-27 margin.
“The biggest thing was we scored four points in the second quarter and they were all from the foul line,” said Plainville head coach Jess Neuweiler. “We can’t get shutout in a quarter and remain competitive.”
“We showed in the first quarter that we can play basketball. We took ourselves out of that game in the second quarter. Hall is who they are for a reason. They are extremely disciplined and when three of our starters are out of the game it becomes difficult.”
Hall took what looked like a rather easy 76-46 win over Plainville but the final score sometimes doesn’t tell the whole story. The Blue Devils did show they could be competitive and they also exhibited the ability to respond to adversity staying with the Warriors in the second half.
“We ran our offense very well,” said Jaida Vasquez. “But we did run into trouble when our only two seniors went to the bench with foul trouble. They are our leaders and we need them on the court. But we stuck together and played a better second half and didn’t give up.”
Plainville learned a few lessons along the way and came back three nights later with a much improved game plan knocking off Bristol Central in a 58-34 final.
Barker threw down a game high 23 points and Lozefski was equally effective putting in 14 points through the cylinder. Jaida Vasquez had her usual all around game scoring 11 points and helped the Blue Devils get out quickly building a 23-8 first quarter advantage.
“Sam came back and had a great game,” said Neuweiler. “She controlled her fouls and didn’t get into trouble and that allowed us to have three scorers on the floor. When Caitlin, Jaida and Sam are all scoring it puts us in a good position.”
Tessa Susco (four points), Kori Jones (three points) and Olivia Wazorko (two points) proved to be other offensive options as Plainville took a 31-12 lead at the half. The Blue Devils continued to score in transition outscoring BC 17-10 in the third quarter to put the game away.
What is keeping the Blue Devils competitive is the inside presence of Krystyna Miller under the basket and a deep bench consisting of Vanessa Xiques, Elena Gorneault, Sydney Ouellette, and Lillian Wazorko.
“Krystyna has been a force for us inside and now we need to work her into the offensive flow,” said Neuweiler. “Elena has a fantastic work ethic and has made tremendous progress from last year.”
Plainville came out and showed no fear against Hall in the season opener actually holding the lead until the final 22 seconds of the first quarter. The Blue Devils shot just 5 of 14 from the floor but bolted out to a 10-4 lead with 3:12 remaining.
Hall managed to wrestle away the lead and took a slim 17-15 advantage into the second quarter. Plainville had only one turnover in the first quarter but had six including four straight possessions with their two senior captains on the bench allowing the Warriors to pull away.
Trailing 41-19 entering the third quarter Plainville wasn’t convinced that they were out of this game as they began to push the ball up and down the court almost matching their first quarter output.
Miller made a strong move inside putting one in off the window. Barker reared back and threw down a three-pointer and when Lozefski knocked down a shot the Blue Devils had their first back-to-back baskets since the opening quarter.
“I wanted to see how we responded to adversity and we came out in the second half and battled,” said Neuweiler. “I was proud of that fact. We showed some guts. This is heart and this is character and we showed what we are made of.”
“We have a lot of basketball ahead of us. I saw things in this game that gives me confidence in this team that we can compete. It’s all a matter of confidence and that will come.”
Hall continued to pressure the ball and put points on the board led by Liz Deslauriers with 23 points, Jenna Zydanowicz 17 points, and Olivia Bonee 15 points; but they did most of their damage going 19 of 29 from the foul line.
Plainville finished out the game going on an 11-3 spurt with Jones hitting two shots in the paint. The way the Blue Devils started and finished the game gave a clear indication that they have the players to compete. They are still young and learning to overcome mistakes but they are certainly headed in the right direction.
“We are just going to take this week one game at a time,” said Neuweiler. “Berlin is a great matchup for us; they are undefeated and will be a good test. West Haven is from the SCC and it will give us a different look than what we are use to in the CCC.”
“We have three very different matchups this week and I’m looking forward to seeing how we compete. We are going to prepare for each game one at a time and hopefully we can put all three in the win column.”
Plainville will have its work cut out for them taking on Maloney on the road Monday, hosting undefeated Berlin on Thursday and finishing the week at West Haven on Saturday.