The essence of NAC hoops
You can hear the reverberations walking down the hallway.
It echoes through the crevices of Bristol High School.
Then you reach the source of the noise, which to the avid basketball fan is more of a musical than muffled sound.
Each dribble of the basketball, the bellowing from the respective student sections and the coaches barking out calls tells you’re not only in the confines of Bristol High School’s gymnasium, but the midst of Northeastern Athletic Conference basketball.
It might not be the sexiest in terms of occasional dunks or fluid offensive schemes, but if you want gritty, all-out effort, this is your game.
The atmosphere takes the game to a whole new level.
Bristol’s student section, led by one student as a conductor, per se, directs the block of pupils by waving his arms one way, then the other and even backward – simulating a rollercoaster.
Friday’s game against Grand Valley also herded in a contingent from north on state Route 45.
The Orwell residents made the scene during the 76-63 Bristol victory much more enjoyable.
The Mustang students tried yelling at the top of their lungs every time Bristol senior Chad Oliver went to the foul line. The simiulated hexes and the sort, even short of yelling “Noonan,” was tried without success since – Oliver was 11 of 14 from the line.
Considering the final score, the view from the player’s perspective wasn’t too bad either – especially if you are a Grand Valley player who has two wins on the season.
The Mustangs haven’t been in too many games, let alone in the first couple of minutes.
Friday was different. Grand Valley overcame 14 first-half turnovers and still only trailed Bristol by single figures heading into intermission.
The Mustangs played nip and tuck with the No. 4-ranked team in Division IV for most of the game, even cutting the Bristol lead to four with 3 minutes remaining.
A couple of Grand Valley starters amassed four fouls and played as a team inspired against a Panthers team that shot a very respectable 29 of 79 from the floor.
Stanley Sirrine and Jake Vormelker, both returning letterwinners, crashed the boards – accounting for more than half of Grand Valley’s rebounds.
Gabe and Josh Kovats were a one-two punch that combined for 23 points for the Mustangs.
Despite the offensive woes, Bristol found a way to maintain its poise. The Panthers, usually led by Oliver, had a superior effort by Brandon Lee – a game-high 25 points. Oliver added 24. Zak Dibell and Logan Koeth even powered Bristol with some key third-quarter offense to push the Panthers’ edge.
Even the shaky 3-point shooting – a combined 5 of 38 for both teams- didn’t damper the spirit of this NAC contest. Although, admitted by GV coach Luke Strohm, the momentum could’ve swung the game the Mustangs’ way if some of those long-range bombs fell.
It wasn’t Bristol’s best effort by far, but a solid performance from GV – giving way for Strohm, a 1995 Bristol High School graduate who was a senior on the state-bound team from the 1994-95 season, to praise his Mustang players.
The combination of both teams weren’t oil and water – not in the least.
It was the essence of NAC basketball – pure form of effort and dogged determination clustered in a fast-paced atmosphere.