By KEN MORSE
The Plainville boys basketball team is chasing history beginning with a win at the Rybczyk Holiday Tournament. The Blue Devils had only won a game in the holiday tournament just three times in the last seven years prior to last year.
Plainville won the tournament in 2010 and 2015. It has now made it two years in a row that they have emerged victorious splitting a pair of games and are now chasing history trying to become the first team in the last eight seasons to qualify for the state tournament.
The Blue Devils took a giant step forward last Friday in front of an exuberant crowd at the Ivan Wood Gymnasium staging a fourth quarter comeback against Bristol Central 40-36 winning for the third time in the last five games improving to 4-4 on the season.
Plainville is now half way to their goal of qualifying for the post season and got a nerves of steel performance from senior captain Brady Callahan (13 points) who drained 11 of 12 from the foul line to ensure that victory was at hand.
In all four of their losses, the Blue and White were outscored in the final quarter and against BC they trailed 30-27 going into the final eight minutes. The Blue Devils rose to the occasion and said not this time as they outscored the Eagles 13-6 in the final stanza to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.
A game like this can go a long way in dictating where Plainville goes from here. In the Rybczyk tournament, the Blue Devils had less than 24 hours to try and recover from a game that was well in hand until the final quarter when they lost a heart breaker 68-65 to Berlin on Dec 27.
Plainville broke out to an 18-9 lead over the Red Coats; but saw it slip away down the stretch as Berlin tied the game at 49 with a 22-17 advantage in the third quarter and managed to put it away with a 19-16 fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils managed to quickly put that game behind them as the next night went out and outscored University in all four quarters coming away with a 54-41 win.
Callahan led the way to victory over University throwing down 15 points. Javan Paradis had 10 points; Ben Dougherty added eight points; and Ryan Snyder chipped in with seven points.
“It was nice to see us bounce back the way we did,” said Plainville head coach Jim DiNello. “But we could have easily won both games in the tournament. We learned a little bit about ourselves from the Berlin game. Actually, every game that we played this year we have been extremely competitive.”
In the Rybczyk tournament opener, the Blue and White came out and quickly got the Red Coats attention. Dougherty (seven points) and Callahan 16 points) took assists from Sam Lestini, when the senior center kicked the ball out from under the basket beyond the three-point perimeter and both shots rippled the net.
Less than a minute gone in the quarter, Plainville was out to a 6-2 lead. Alec Couture (11 points) muscled his way inside for a bucket and then came off a pick and dropped a three-pointer through the cylinder.
Peyton Warnat (4 rebounds) was helping Lestini to control the boards early on and Plainville was making good decisions with the basketball.
By the time, the quarter came to a close the Blue Devils had built an 18-9 lead. Berlin began to win the battle on the boards and that started to turn the momentum in their favor.
“We came out hot against Berlin,” said DiNello. “We didn’t do a good job taking care of the basketball especially in the second half. We turned it over 21 times.”
Dane Stephens threw down a three-pointer to open the second quarter upping the margin to 21-9 before the Red Coats came storming back. Back-to-back turnovers led to a pair of quick fast break baskets for Berlin cutting a 12 point deficit to five points. If it wasn’t for Paradis (14 points) knocking down nine of his points in the second quarter Plainville would not have held the 32-27 lead at the half.
Berlin continued its relentless pursuit; and with 3:14 to go in the third quarter, they finally caught the Blue Devils and took over the lead for the first time 41-40. Pierre Ramirez (8 points) knocked down a three-pointer as Plainville managed to tie the game 49-49 going into the final quarter.
The Red Coats began to attack the basket and the Blue Devils couldn’t stop the onslaught. Eight times in the final quarter; Berlin charged into the paint and deposited baskets off the window.
The lead grew to eight points at 66-58 with two minutes remaining, but Plainville was not backing down. Paradis hit a crucial three-pointer to spark some hope in the Blue and White.
Lestini (six points, five rebounds, six assists) tried to make it happen putting down a shot in the lane to close the gap at 66-64 with 28 seconds remaining. Plainville had an opportunity for a last shot but Berlin managed to hold onto a 68-65 win.
“We still managed to get it down to the last possession,” said DiNello. “So it was kind of a glass half full scenario. We were able to quickly put that game behind us and we knew we had to play well and we won all four quarters to win against University.”
Plainville will face a stiff test this week at 4-2 Bristol Eastern on Monday, Jan. 7 and finish the week at home on Friday, Jan. 11 to 3-3 RHAM.