BRISTOL - In its opening game of the season, Bristol unleashed what it called "Bristol Bedlam," an up-tempo offensive style designed to put points on the scoreboard quickly and keep the opposition off-balance.
Friday night against John F. Kennedy, the Panthers took a 22-point lead in the second quarter before JFK nearly came all the way back. Bristol recovered and eventually pulled away for a 75-55 victory.
"Constant pressure, that's what we're going to do this year," Bristol coach Craig Giesy said. "We're just taking that on, putting constant pressure on the guards, making them make mistakes if possible."
Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia said his team was in the same position after the first game last season and will use the loss just as they did to advance to the district final one year ago.
"Listen to their locker room. This is exactly how 12 months ago the team in Vienna acted when we played them," he said. "Then we got better ... I just don't want to forget that. That fuels me. Just like when we were in Vienna 12 months ago, and we beat them in the district semifinal. This will fuel me and this team, I guarantee it."
Chad Oliver led the way for Bristol all night. He scored a game-high 28 points, including 11 in the first quarter as the Panthers took a 20-7 lead. In the second quarter, he put back a teammate's miss and later had a steal and layup. Zak Dibell then scored to give Bristol a 33-11 lead with 4:40 remaining in the first half.
"It's definitely a big win," Oliver said. "It's always great to get the first win of the season. We've got a lot of young guys on the team and for them to get their nerves out the first game is huge for our team."
Kennedy then began the slow climb back in the game. Trailing 36-21 at the half, the Eagles got a three-point play from John Hilty to get within 12 points, and Dominic Naples followed up with a steal and layup and added two free throws on a technical on Giesy. After a basket by Preston Caparanis, the score was 46-40 with 4:27 left in the third quarter, capping a 29-13 run.
"I just think the kids' heart, determination," Pompelia said of how JFK got back in the game. "We changed some things up to try and make us more successful. I'll be honest with you, this was a flashback from 12 months ago. First game of the year, we played away, and there's a lot of curbs in the road right now. We're going to turn this around into a positive. We're not going to panic and we're going to get better for it."
Giesy said that was the first technical he has ever received, and he used it to get Bristol back on track.
"I got that technical, the first technical I've ever had playing - college, high school, coaching career," he said. "I didn't say too much, but whatever. I called timeout almost right after that, and I go 'You know, it's time for you guys to pick me up.' As soon as they came out of that timeout, that's when they went on that run in the third quarter."
Facing the possibility of blowing a huge lead at home, Bristol pushed its narrow lead back out. Logan Koeth made a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer, then Oliver followed with a three-point play and a basket to end the quarter at 59-43. Oliver had 13 points in the third.
Brandon Lee scored to give the Panthers a 64-44 lead in the first 2 minutes of the fourth quarter, ending the Eagles' chances.