Category: Sports

Blue Devils learn how to compete

By KEN MORSE

CORRESPONDENT

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

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By KEN MORSE

STAFF WRITER

The Plainville girls basketball team headed into the season looking to finish what they started. Several games fell by the wayside last season and they vowed to change that outcome this year.

The Lady Blue Devils took a huge step in that direction last Thursday when they battled back from not one, but two 10 points runs by Bristol Eastern in a thrilling come from behind 61-55 win.

Junior Caitlin Barker showed that she is the go-to player at crunch time dropping in 10 of her game high 32 points in a decisive fourth quarter. Barker had no interest  in making it all about her as she dished off for three assists in the final four minutes that got the Ivan Wood Gymnasium rocking with excitement.

“It feels so great to be back out there with my teammates contributing to the team’s success,” said Barker who missed almost all of last season with an ACL injury.

“To be able to share this winning feeling with them is just fantastic. Everyone who came in stepped up. We were in foul trouble but we never gave up.”

Prior to the showdown with the Lancers from Bristol Eastern, the excitement was already building with the varsity sitting in the stands, rising to their feet every time the JV team dropped a basket through the cylinder.

“The biggest thing I try and instill in the girls is that this is a program,” said Plainville head coach Jess Neuweiler. “It’s not freshman, JV, and varsity. We are one program, one team and one family.”

“It was like that on Monday night. There was a huge crowd for the JV game. The girls really enjoy being teammates and understand that each player is doing their part to help us to be a successful program.”

Plainville had dropped the season opener last Monday 63-52 to New Britain. The Blue Devils held a 27-19 halftime advantage showing their true potential. Barker led the way with 27 points but Plainville couldn’t hang on as the Golden Hurricanes stormed back to claim victory.

The difference against Bristol Eastern was the Blue Devils withstood every run that the Lancers threw at them. After Hannah Maghini (20 points) dropped in back-to-back threes to put the Lancers ahead 47-41 with 4:35 to go, Plainville shifted gears.

For a fleeting moment, the here-we-go-again-feeling may have crept in a little bit, only to have Jaida Vasquez (six points, 13 rebounds) fight for a put back down the other end.

Barker then filled the lane for a bucket before dishing one off to Amiyah Peters (nine points, four assists, four steals) for a three-pointer from the top of the key. Coach Neuweiler jumped off the bench as the Blue Devils’ sideline erupted with Plainville back on top 48-47.

The Blue Devils ran the floor in a reckless abandon style, with Sam Lozefski (six points) going coast-to-coast twice on drives to the basket, as Plainville outscored Bristol Eastern 20-8 the rest of the way. The cheers grew louder and more frantic with each point that went up on the scoreboard as it became evident that Plainville was sticking this one in the win column.

“When we got down my mind was going crazy. Like what are we going to do,” said Vazquez. “Then we just started making plays and took the lead. What an awesome feeling.”

This game could have gone either way especially in the second quarter when the Lancers took off on a 10-0 run to grab a 24-16 advantage. But Barker was at her best converting five of six from the free throw line and by the time the half rolled around Plainville trailed 27-23.

The third quarter turned into a free throw shooting contest and players began to get into foul trouble. That’s when coach Neuweiler protected her starters going to the bench four times making wholesale changes every time, the Blue Devils went on defense bringing in Meghan Guimond, Tessa Susco, Kori Jones, and Vanessa Xiques.

That proved to be the key to victory as Plainville went into the final eight minutes leading by a slim 38-37 margin. Isabel Lozefski (six points, three assists, three steals) opened the final quarter dropping a three-pointer through the cylinder before the Lancers went on another 10-0 run.

“We went through many games last year that we lost at the end,” said Lozefski. “To be able to hang in there and not give up and turning this into a win is such a great feeling. A game like this will only give us confidence when we are in that situation again.”

That situation arose in the next game for the Blue Devils in last Saturday’s 72-64 win over East Hartford. Isabel Lozefski led the way scoring 20 points, Barker had 15 points, Vazquez knocked down 11 points and Peters threw in 10 points giving Plainville four players in double digits.

Jones scored six points; Samantha Lozefski added four points; and Krystyna Miller chipped in with two points to complete the scoring for the Blue Devils who led by 14 points at the half but held on at the end improving to 2-1 on the season.

“The girls are starting to believe in themselves and each other,” said Neuweiler. “We have a couple of tough games coming up but if we continue to play together and not give up when things get a little crazy at the end we will be alright.”

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