By KEN MORSE
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.”
Plainville is back in action on Tuesday at home against Maloney and then travel to Berlin on Friday before finishing out the month of December hosting the Rybczyk Memorial Tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27 and Thursday, Dec. 28.