By KEN MORSE
After a winless campaign last season, every step forward made by the Plainville boys basketball team is a step in the right direction. Head coach Jim DiNello knew there would be challenges that laid ahead for his Blue Devils and learning to compete is part of the process.
“We competed really well against Rocky Hill,” said DiNello. “Now we need to learn how to finish. The kids deserve a ton of credit for how hard they are working. The goal is to get better each day, with each practice and take it one game at a time.”
Against Rocky Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 2, the Blue Devils got out to a 25-15 halftime lead. The Terriers stormed back to tie the game sending it to overtime. Rocky Hill pulled out a 52-46 win over Plainville.
Ben Dougherty and Sam Lestini led the way with 14 points each for the Blue Devils. Brady Callahan steered the offense lending seven points with Pierre Ramirez chipping in with five points.
Last Friday, Plainville again was competing holding a 26-17 advantage over RHAM at the half. The Sachems used a 22-10 fourth quarter to pull out a 53-44 win over the Blue Devils.
Dougherty had a team high 24 points. Jailen Lindsey and Ramirez had six points each and Callahan added five points. It marked the second game in the last three that foul trouble hampered the Blue Devils progress.
Rocky Hill had an 18-9 advantage at the free throw line that helped to decide the final outcome and against RHAM, the Sachems sank 12 at the line to only two for Plainville.
When you are learning to compete there are times when you are simply out manned. That was the case last Tuesday in a 74-59 loss to Bristol Central. The Blue Devils were outshot from the floor and outrebounded on the glass but the one thing that Plainville didn’t do was quit.
When the game was over, Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette wasn’t exactly thrilled with the final outcome and Coach DiNello was proud of the way his team battled all game long.
“We didn’t do a very good job defensively all night,” said Barrette. “Actually it was thirty-two minutes of playing lackadaisical and letting too many guys go by us. We shot the ball pretty well but we gave up too many offensive rebounds and too many guys went right by us.”
According to DiNello that was contributed to the Blue Devils not playing the scoreboard and just giving it everything they had each trip down the floor. After falling behind 24-10 in the first quarter when the Rams blistered the net going 6 of 7 from three point range, Plainville outscored Bristol Central 37-33 in the second half a clear indication of a team learning how to compete.
“We didn’t match up well with them at all,” said DiNello. “They are the real deal and they can shoot the ball. They just flat out beat us.”
“But give the kids credit on how hard they worked especially in the second half. We are learning how to compete, now we need to learn how to win.”
After the first quarter assault that saw four straight three-pointers ripple the net, the Blue Devils proved they were up to the task as they battled to get back in the game.
Dougherty with 25 points and Callahan with 19 points charged the lane putting shots off the window. Lindsey and Lestini crashed the boards to keep possessions alive and on the defensive end Dane Stephens and Ramirez (11 points) began to pressure the ball.
Alec Couture and Nathan Johnson came on in the second half and the tide began to turn. After trailing by 20 points in the first half, the Blue Devils cut the deficit to 14 three times in the third quarter.
Callahan (nine points in the third quarter) and Dougherty (seven points in third quarter) orchestrated the comeback both burying three pointers to get the Rams attention. Playing with a nothing to lose attitude, Plainville began to run the floor and kept closing the gap.
“We tried everything to stop them,” said DiNello. “We tried zone, a little man, three quarters, a little trap and they just seemed to have an answer for everything. They didn’t do a whole lot off the dribble but we just couldn’t keep chasing the ball.”
Dougherty knocked down 12 of the Blue Devils 19 points in the final quarter as Bristol Central managed to safely stay out in front securing the 74-59 win led by Jaekwon Spencer (29 points, 4 threes) and Noah Plantamuro (16 points, 5 threes).
Plainville 1-5 will be back at it looking to complete the lesson and learn how to win this week as they face 7-2 Manchester on the road Tuesday and return home to host 1-5 University on Friday and 7-1 Enfield on Saturday.
PHOTOS by KEN MORSE