By KEN MORSE
The Plainville boys basketball team began the season snapping a 17 game skid by dominating Oliver Wolcott Tech to the tune of 68-33 on Dec 13. A couple of tough lessons have followed in a 75-70 loss to Enfield and an overtime loss 59-58 to Maloney on Monday.
The start of the season is quite similar to last year when Plainville took a one-point loss and an overtime setback in between their only victory. What followed were seven games where they were within striking distance and seven games they were out of it— losing in the 20 to 30 point range.
What is different about this season is they have a rotation of eight seniors with experience who are hungry to turn the corner and four underclassman who are ready to contribute on the varsity level.
In the loss to Enfield on Saturday, Dec. 15, the Blue Devils turned around a 37-36 halftime deficit and outscored the Eagles 23-18 in the third quarter to take a four-point lead into the final quarter.
Enfield put up 20 points in the final eight minutes to pull out the win. Brady Callahan and Alec Couture led the Blue Devils, dropping 15 points each through the cylinder. Javan Paradis put down 11 points with Sam Lestini and Ben Dougherty knocking down 10 points each.
“Sometimes is just a question of getting over the hump,” said Plainville head coach Jim DiNello. “We are competing great, now it comes down to learning how to win those close games.”
The Blue Devils broke a tie game 24-24 at the half to Maloney and took a 33-32 lead into the final quarter. The Spartans managed to tie the game 45-45, sending it to overtime and squeaked out a one-point win.
Paradis led the way with a 22-point night and Callahan added 14 points. They were the only double-figure scorers for the Blue and White with Dane Stephens and Couture adding seven points each.
“It’s a matter of finishing,” said DiNello. “A basket there and rebound there we are just a couple of plays away from finishing. The boys’ attitude is great. They are enjoying being super competitive. It’s only a matter of time before we can flip the scoreboard in our favor.”
What Plainville has shown over the first three games is the ability to be there down the stretch with the opportunity to put games into the win column. In the season opener against the Wildcats the Blue Devils overcame a slow start and turned it up a notch.
Fueled by an aggressive defense Plainville turned a 6-6 first quarter tie into a rout going on a 24-11 run to take a 30-17 lead at the half. The up and down floor pace opened up the transition game as the Blue Devils pulled away.
“Transition is an important part of our game,” said DiNello. “I thought early on we tried to force a few things when they did a good job getting back. We talked at halftime about more feet and less hands to keep us out of foul trouble.”
“You only get about five practices before the first game so it’s not a whole lot of time to prepare. But there were a few things I thought we did well. For the most part we did a good job getting the ball inside.”
Callahan led the way with 21 points and four assists knocking down 13 points in the decisive second quarter. After going 3 of 13 from the floor in the opening quarter the Blue Devils put the game away hitting on 10 of 20 in the second quarter.
Paradis 13 points hit a three-pointer and Plainville was off and running. Stephens added 11 points, four assists, and four rebounds. The Wildcats managed to tie the game for the final time at 11-11 with 6:36 left in the half before Lestini went to work down low.
Ryan Snyder (three points) worked a perfect back door play with Lestini (four points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, six steals, three blocks) putting it in off the window to put Plainville out in front for good.
Jason Mills added to the defensive pressure that allowed the Cats to only score in single digits over the third and fourth quarter. Pierre Ramirez and Dougherty found their shot and knocking down six points each from the perimeter and Peyton Warnat added three rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Tanner Callahan and A.J. Lestini came on to provide quality minutes down the stretch. Couture (four points, five rebounds, six steals) kept the pressure on the Wildcats as Plainville closed out the game with a 17-7 advantage in the third quarter and putting it away with a 21-9 fourth quarter finish.
“Alex (Couture) is young, he’s only a sophomore,” said DiNello. “He’s still learning to play at the varsity level. He’s done a real good job for us and has a bright future.”
“The last few games we haven’t matched up very well inside. Sam (Lestini) is doing a great job for us but was giving up at least five inches to the player from Maloney. But Sam is one of our seniors and he knows how to kick it out on the perimeter he had seven assists against Wolcott Tech.”
“But we are going to need to get some points down in the post. We haven’t had great matchups on the interior and that has hurt us on the back end of the last two games.”
Plainville will finish out the week on Saturday, Dec, 22 at Westbrook. The Blue Devils will be back in action next week on Thursday taking on Berlin in the Rybzcyk Holiday Tournament at the Ivan Wood Gymnasium for a 6:45 p.m. start.