JENKINTOWN – The end of the road came for Bristol Thursday night, Feb. 11 at Jenkintown. The Drakes (17-8) outpaced the Warriors, 54-47, to push their way into Saturday’s Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) championship game.
Oh, but what a ride it has been for Bristol. After finishing the regular season at 7-15, the Warriors fell short of their goal of making it to districts.
Instead of putting their heads down however, the boys in Red & White set their sights on the BAL championship. Facing DelCo Christian in the opener, Bristol (9-16) got past the Knights –a team they lost to twice this season – by a 66-64 score. Against Church Farm, a team that entered the game at 20-3, the Warriors got a big fourth quarter from standout Deonte Harris and won, 55-47 Tuesday Feb. 9, despite losing to the Griffins three days earlier in the last game of the regular season.
“We look back to those games where we know we should have won; it kind of took a toll,” admitted Bristol head coach Matt Gasper. “But I was proud of them the way we came back in the BALs.”
Overall, it was a roller coaster of a season for the Warriors, who returned only one starter from the squad that won its second straight District 1 championship in 2015. Even the coach was new at his job with Gasper – the JV skipper last year – taking over for the departed Tyrone Lewis, who was offered a job at his alma mater Niagara.
Bristol got off to a slow start, dropping four of its first five including its first two against BAL rivals. After finally getting a league win at home over Faith Christian and another right before Christmas against Calvary Christian, it looked like the boys might be ready to compete.
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But the Warriors dropped both games in the Dick Dougherty Tournament then lost four straight against BAL opponents. Three consecutive wins over MaST Charter, Chris Dock and Morrisville brought Bristol back to 4-7 in the league, though the Warriors finished the season with three straight losses to DelCo, Devon Prep and Church Farm.
While the losses kept Bristol from attaining a berth in districts, the Warriors learned how to do one thing by the end of the season and that was sharing the ball.
Both senior Dom Sica and junior Ronnie Garrison enjoyed late-season surges that ignited the Red & White in both of its BAL triumphs. Ronnie hit for 15 in the DelCo game and added 11 to the win at Church Farm. Sica scored nine vs. the Knights and added seven to the big win over the Griffins.
“We all know Deonte’s our main guy but I think in the beginning of the year, he tried to do too much,” explained Gasper. “None of the other kids played varsity before so I think he thought he had to do everything himself.”
“Recently, he kind of switched into a point guard role where he was helping his teammates out but also scoring on his own. That’s when we kind of started hitting our stride.”
Garrison scored nine of his 15 points in the second quarter of the DelCo game, helping Bristol to a 33-16 halftime lead. Sica scored all nine of his points in the second half and helped seal a 2-point win by making 3-of-4 free throws in the closing moments.
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Of course, Harris accounted for half of the 66 points registered by the Warriors against DelCo. In the first period, Deonte scored eight of the 12 points tallied by Bristol. He hit from 3-point range four times in the game including twice in the first quarter. In the last period, he helped close it out by making 5-of-6 free throws.
For the game, the Warriors went 13-for-20 from the stripe and more importantly, they made 8-of-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Against Church Farm in BALs, Bristol went 10-for-12 from the foul line.
Unfortunately, that shooting proficiency on free throws did not continue in the BAL semifinal at Jenkintown with the Warriors making 5-of-14 foul shots, and that included seven misses in the second half. For their part, the Drakes made 11-of-15 from the charity stripe.
“They made their free throws and we didn’t; that’s what it came down to,” stated Gasper. “For us to miss that many free throws, especially late in the game, it’s tough to come back from that.”
Some of his team’s troubles the coach attributed to a short bench. Bristol dressed just eight players at Jenkintown with just seven of those seeing any action.
“Playing with a short bench, I could tell some of our guys were gassed,” he said. “We just couldn’t make free throws at the end. We were fouling them and they were getting two points; they were fouling us and we were only getting one.”
The Warriors led the Drakes just one time in the game, taking a short-lived 31-29 edge on Parker Kelley’s third 3-pointer in the game with 3:33 left in the third quarter. Jenkintown answered with a layup by leading scorer Colin Mulvaney (16 pts.) and a trey by junior Jameson Kolb.
The Drakes capped off a 10-5 scoring run with a pair of free throws by senior Carl Robinson (12 pts.) an another 3-ball by classmate Andres Madden. Robinson sparked the team again in the final frame, opening the period with a layup and a 3-point play that put the Drakes up 44-38.
While Harris countered with his fourth 3-ball in the game – Bristol had eight treys, all told – Soloboleski hit his second 3-pointer in the contest to put his team on top 48-41 with less than three minutes remaining. Jenkintown closed it out at the foul line.
Another factor in the loss was a lane left open for the Drakes in the first half.
“We were able to space them out a little bit in the first half and they did a much better job of staying compact and guarding the rim in the second,” said Jenkintown head coach Wes Emme. “Fortunately, we were able to make some free throws down the stretch and made just enough shots to hold them off.”
For their trouble, the Drakes advance to face Phil-Mont Christian Academy in the BAL title tilt Saturday afternoon at Holy Family University.
Last year, Jenkintown lost a BAL opener to Church Farm before advancing to the District 1 Class A final where they fell at the hands of DelCo Christian. To get the D-1 championship, the Drakes had to beat Phil-Mont Christian and they did that.
However, Jenkintown lost twice to the Falcons during the regular season last year. Of course, the Drakes dropped both regular season games with Phil-Mont this year so Saturday’s battle should be interesting.
NOTES: Bristol won the DelCo playoff with only six players. Junior guard Parker Kelley was out sick from school that day and was not unavailable for any hoops action.
Jenkintown 54, Bristol 47
(Feb. 11 at Jenkintown)
Bristol 10 11 15 11 – 47
Jenkintown 13 13 13 15 – 54
BRISTOL (9-16) — Carter Kelley 1 1-2 3, Deonte Harris 6 1-2 16, Samir Brisbon 1 0-0 3, Parker Kelley 3 0-2 9, Dom Sica 3 1-2 7, Ronnie Garrison 3 2-6 9; TOTALS — 17 5-14 47.
JENKINTOWN (17-8) — Carl Robinson 4 4-5 12, Frank Sobolewski 3 3-4 11, Andres Madden 3 0-0 7, Jameson Kolb 2 0-0 5, Colin Mulvaney 6 3-4 16, John Contoudis 1 0-0 2, Mike Divalentino 0 1-2 1; TOTALS — 19 11-15 54.
3-POINT GOALS: B — Harris 3, Parker Kelley 3, Brisbon, Garrison; J — Sobolewski 2; Kolb, Madden, Mulvaney.
Bristol 55, Church Farm School 47
(Feb. 9 at Church Farm)
Bristol 14 7 12 22 – 55
Church Farm 10 2 18 17 – 47
BRISTOL (9-15) — Deonte Harris 22, Ronnie Garrison 11, Parker Kelley 7, Dom Sica 7, Carter Kelley 6, Samir Brisbon 7, TOTALS — 19 10-12 55.
CHURCH FARM (20-4) — Fred Odhiamdo 17, James Lawton 2, Faustas Kulbickus 6, Emmit Jefferies 8, Augustus Veniukevicius 14; TOTALS — 19 4-6 47.
3-POINT GOALS: B — Carter Kelley 2, Harris 2, Parker Kelley, Garrison, Sica; CFS — Kulbickus 2, Veniukevicius 3.
Bristol 66, Delco Christian 64
(Feb. 8 at Delco Christian)
Bristol 12 21 19 14 – 66
Delco Christian 13 13 17 21 – 64
BRISTOL (8-15) — Deonte Harris 12 5-9 33, Ronnie Garrison 5 4-6 15, Dom Sica 3 3-4 9, Carter Kelley 1 0-0 3, Samir Brisbon 1 0-0 3, Alex Jerbos 1 1-1 3; TOTALS — 23 13-20 66.
DELCO CHRISTIAN (12-11) — Devin Hill 5 5-7 17, Wyatt Hawkins 5 6-8 17, Jordan Parks 4 5-5 14, Grant Fischer 3 4-5 10, Nazim Trammell-Wells 1 0-0 2, Jalen Johns 1 0-0 2, Elijah Thomas 0 2-2 2; TOTALS — 19 22-27 64.
3-POINT GOALS: B — Harris 4, Kelley, Brisbon, Garrison; DC — Hill 2, Parks, Hawkins.