Plainville boys basketball learning how to win, turning past mistakes into successes on court

Published on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:59
Written by RYAN CHICHESTER

@ryanchichester1

BRISTOL - It’s been said that failure is the greatest teacher. For the Plainville boys basketball team, there’s been plenty of lessons.

A winless 2016-17 season followed by just one victory the following campaign provided head coach Jim DiNello and company a number of harsh opportunities to learn from mistakes. Now, three years since the Blue Devils’ painful stretch of defeat began, the team is finally reaping the rewards of those painful lessons.

Monday night provided a stage where the Blue Devils of old would have turned a potential victory into another dose of heartbreak.

With Plainville up six in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter at Bristol Eastern, the Blue Devils missed a pair of free throws that would have iced the game. The Lancers capitalized with a 3-pointer on the other end, then forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play. Plainville’s seemingly comfortable lead had evaporated in seconds, but DiNello didn’t see a team on the court that had been beaten into acceptance of the inevitable. He saw a group that had learned from years of tough situations, piecing together a way to capture a win.

“They didn’t hang their heads for a second,” DiNello said of his group. “They just kept getting after it. They’re resilient. They’re a great bunch and work their tails off. I give them a ton of credit.”

Instead of dropping another close game, the Blue Devils forced a stop on the defensive end, and made their next four free throws to secure their second-straight win, marking the first time the program has logged consecutive victories since 2015. At a closer look, an encouraging trend can be noticed.

Plainville’s four losses this season have come by a combined 16 points, but these last two wins have seen similar situations down the stretch, only with different outcomes.

It’s not always pretty, but the Blue Devils are learning how to win.

“At the beginning of the season, we were in close games but lost them,” said Plainville senior Sam Lestini, who drew two crucial charging calls in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s win to keep Plainville ahead. “We’re finally getting over that hump and starting to win. It feels great. We feel a lot more confident. It’s like we’re a different team now in the fourth quarter, whether we’re up or down.”

Lestini’s words are backed up by Plainville’s play in recent weeks. In the first win of the team’s new streak, the Blue Devils trailed by seven midway through the fourth quarter before taking off on a 13-2 run to secure a narrow four-point victory against Bristol Central. On Monday night, a 10-point lead turned into a tie game late in the fourth quarter, before Lestini forced two big turnovers to propel the Blue Devils to another close win.

DiNello credits his team’s newfound poise to being in the same spot before, only to come out on the losing end. For the Blue Devils, those early defeats are proving to have worth.

“We learned a lot from those four losses,” DiNello said. “We kept telling ourselves that one of these nights we were going to play well enough and the score would end in our favor. That happened [Friday], and I think the kids believe that if they keep working hard and stay the course, things will work out.”

For the past two games, things have been working out. The Blue Devils now have their heads poking over the .500 mark at 5-4 on the season. But DiNello won’t let those heads grow too big. As far as he is concerned, there is no streak, only more learning opportunities. Only now, the lessons come from victories.

“We honestly think about one in a row,” DiNello said. “I know it sounds cliché, but we worry about today and just try to keep getting better.”

Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860)-801-5094 or rchichester@newbritiainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, Plainville on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:59. Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2019 21:02.