BRISTOL - All it took was 24 minutes of game time Tuesday night.
That was the amount of time - the final three quarters against Bristol Central - it took for the Southington boys basketball team to lose its chance to have the program’s best start since the 2009-10 season when it went 4-1.
After losing their season opener to Glastonbury 59-57, the Blue Knights had been on a three-game win streak after beating Farmington (49-45), Shelton (67-57) and New Canaan (54-48 in overtime). That short streak, however, ended in the 56-48 loss to the Rams, after Southington was outscored 48-32 over those final three quarters.
“We really need to put our focus on handling the ball,” Southington head coach John Cessario said. “The game, as we possibly can say in every sport, is a game of inches and anytime you can deliver a pass to an outside shoulder so a defender doesn't get to it or a guy, instead of tapping a rebound, grabs a rebound so we can have possession.”
What made the game the most frustrating for the Blue Knights was how well they started off the game, as they controlled the entirety of the first quarter.
Southington contained the Rams’ offense as the Blue Knights began the game on a 14-3 run. It wasn’t until one minute was left in the first when Noah Plantamuro hit a 3-point shot for Bristol Central and Ryan Rodriguez added one more basket for two 30 seconds later to send the game into the second quarter with Southington holding a 16-8 lead.
But that would be the Blue Knights’ only lead of the night.
The next 24 minutes of play consisted of sloppy ball handling, turnovers and fouls.
Over the course of the game, Southington sent Bristol Central to the foul line 20 times, where the Rams converted on 12 of those attempts. The Blue Knights, meanwhile, only went to the line 10 times, hitting six.
One of Cessario’s main points after the game ended was how his team needed to do a better job of taking care of the ball, something that hurt his team down the stretch of the game.
“They forced many, many turnovers on us and we need to be able to handle pressure significantly better,” Cessario said.
The Blue Knights are also dealing with the loss of Colin Burdette, who injured his knee and are unsure if he will be making a comeback this season. Having the junior point guard on the sidelines instead of the court Tuesday evening left a big impact on Southington.
“My guys played hard,” Cessario said. “They made up for not having a point guard that is very true to his position. I felt like our guys did whatever they had to do in order to keep the game close.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860)801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org