Bristol Central boys: state champions, undefeated, No. 1 in the state

The top-ranked and top-seeded Bristol Central boys basketball team faced one final challenge in its quest for the program’s first state championship since 1990.

That challenge was second-ranked and second-seeded Northwest Catholic, a team Central defeated 16 days before in the CCC tournament final at Enfield High School. The Rams and Lions went at it again this past Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena, and this game wasn’t close.

Central outscored Northwest by 18 points in the second half and rolled to a 56-36 victory and a Division II state championship. The Rams finished the season 27-0 and secured the top ranking in the state in the GameTimeCT Top 10 poll. The vote was a unanimous one. Central will enter next season having not lost a game since the 2020 CCC tournament.

There was one statistic that Ram head coach Tim Barrette was especially proud of: 36. That was the number of points the Lions put up.

“It’s a little surreal. It’s a lot of hard work from my guys. A lot of hard work to get us here, but I’m going to tell you something. Look at that scoreboard,” Barrette told assembled media after the game. “Thirty-six points allowed. That’s a heck of a defensive effort in a state championship game.”

Matty Curtis scored 15 of those points, but it took him 18 attempts (5 of 18), along with five made free throws (5 of 8), to get there. Seniors Victor Rosa and Carson Rivoira were a big part of why.

“Victor and Carson did an amazing job on Matt, holding him down to very little points,” said senior superstar Donovan Clingan. “We were very good getting rebounds, steals. I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”

On offense, Rivoira tallied six points and snatched 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Steve Alseph Jr. finished with six points and nine rebounds.

“We have a great basketball player in Donovan and Damion’s pretty good himself, but I’ve got three athletes around them that are bulldogs, and that’s what won us this game,” Barrette said.

Clingan had a monster final game with 25 points, 24 rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal. He did what he wanted to do at Central, and he honored the memory of his late mom, Stacey, in the process.

“I know my mom’s proud of me. I know Bristol’s proud, the school’s proud, I’m proud, the team’s proud,” Clingan said. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m so excited. This is the reason why I stayed at Central.”

Senior Damion Glasper helped Clingan out on offense with 15 points, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the third quarter that had the Ram fans all sorts of fired up.

“It was like a chuck-up shot for me, but that was the one that went in, and I’m happy that went in,” said a smiling Glasper.

Glasper’s shot wasn’t falling from outside, but he showed his maturity by attacking the basket. He wound up 6 of 10 at the foul line.

“He’s come a long way since he was a freshman,” Clingan said.

Central’s defense forced Northwest to shoot a miserable 27.7% from the field, including 13.3% on 3-pointers. After Glasper’s 3-pointer capped the third quarter, the Rams pounded it in to Clingan.

“We did a great job (defensively), we made them work for everything tonight,” Barrette said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and I thought in the fourth quarter, once we pulled the ball out, we were able to get it inside, and he was able to finish it with those three thunderous dunks.”

Afterward, the players were able to talk about what they accomplished.

“It’s a blessing. I can’t thank him (Clingan) enough for staying. He’s a hell of a player, and I love our team. I love our team,” Rosa said. “We did our job, worked our tails off all last season, all this season, and we’ll remember this for the rest of our lives.”

“This is every high school basketball player’s dream, every high school athlete’s dream to win a state championship, especially at a venue like this,” Clingan said. “Mohegan is a great arena. I just couldn’t be happier.”

Photo caption: The Mohegan Sun Arena scoreboard said everything that needed to be said after the Division II state championship game this past Saturday. (Credit: Tamara Stafford-Kirk, Twitter)