NEW BRITAIN – This may not have been a game where Donovan Clingan’s final numbers jump off the page at you, but the 7-foot sophomore can be such a presence without ever scoring a point.
Innovation couldn’t get anything going against Bristol Central on offense – drives to the basket were blocked by Clingan, then the outside shots weren’t falling.
Bristol Central put the defensive clamps on Innovation, shutting the Ravens out for the entire second quarter. The end result was a decisive 52-16 road win that wasn’t that close.
“I thought we did a great job with the game plan defensively. Donovan’s size inside really deterred them from doing anything inside and made it difficult early and they weren’t hitting outside shots,” Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette said. “They thrive on offensive rebounds and we didn’t give up many second shots.”
Innovation, which won the CIAC Division V state championship last season, usually has success getting offense around the basket, or by getting to the free-throw line, according to head coach Matt Lance.
“A 7-footer looming (in the paint) was in their minds. Even if he wasn’t blocking shots, he was altering shots,” Lance said. “I thought (Bristol Central) dd a really good job in the 2-3 zone taking away LJ (Hazelwood, the lone returning starter from last season. I thought we got a lot of solid looks, but we couldn’t hit anything.”
Clingan picked up his first foul 90 seconds into the game. Innovation (7-2) then scored its first three points and led 3-2.
The Ravens didn’t score again for almost 20 minutes. All told, Bristol Central scored 35 consecutive points.
“The last three games, we’ve been stressing in the locker room that defense travels,” Barrette said. “If we play with that energy and rebound like we did tonight, we could be a dangerous team going forward for sure.”
Clingan finished with another double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) along with five blocked shots. That all came in just over 20 minutes of action.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) January 16, 2020
He picked up his second and third fouls and sat the rest of the way with the game in hand.
“When I get the ball, everyone comes at me,” Clingan said. “It’s most important for the wings and guards to relocate to an open area to make it easy for me to kick it out to them so they can knock down the shot.”
Said Barrette: “Donovan makes everyone’s jobs easier. I tell the guys all the time. ‘If you move without the basketball, once the ball (comes in to Clingan) he’s a great passer. He’s almost sometimes too unselfish.”
Clingan is one of just two notable 7-footers in the CIAC game – the other being junior Conor Tierney from third-ranked Sacred Heart. But it’s Clingan armed with five Division I offers already.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) January 16, 2020
UConn, Syracuse, Georgetown, UMass and Providence are the five, with assuredly more to come.
And Clingan seemingly takes it all instride.
“I try not to let it get to my head,” Clingan said. “I go out there, go out with my team and win games and play as best as I could. If I don’t do what I do, will get an overrated chant.”
Clingan said he received such a chant last Friday at Berlin. The Rams still won the game 62-33.
Barrette says Clingan has all of those positive qualities: humble, unselfish and a tremendous work ethic. All of that plus the size, weight (between 240-250 pounds) and a huge wing span that has fans and college coaches alike flocking to come see him play.
“He wants to be great. What sets him apart from most players who are collegiate ready is he will do whatever it takes to get there,” Barrette said. “I tell coaches he’s a workaholic, a gym rat a great player and an even better person and human being.”
Lance was impressed with Clingan’s footwork.
“He’s very mobile for someone that tall. He will only get stronger as he gets older,” Lance said.
There is a huge three-game stretch in two weeks that the Rams will have all they can handle: road games against East Catholic (Jan. 30), Windsor (Feb. 3) and Middletown (Feb. 6), all in the CCC.
“We will have to be playing our best basketball,” Barrette said. “If our defense travels, we have have the opportunity to do some good things and show how much we have improved from day one at Glastonbury.”
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) January 15, 2020
Jumping up in class
Innovation won the Division V state championship last season. The Ravens’ “reward” was being moved up to Division II, as determined by a transparent formula used for all CIAC schools.
Players of the game
Bristol Central’s defense. If you can hold team without a point for an entire quarter and for over 19 minutes in all, you’ve done pretty darn well.
BRISTOL CENTRAL 52, INNOVATION 16
(at New Britain)
BRISTOL CENTRAL (52)
Victor Rosa 2 0-0 4, Damion Glaspar 1 0-0 2, Austin Brown 3 0-0 7, Elijah Rodriguez 1 0-0 2, Michael Lorenzetti 3 0-0 6, Shane Ouellette 1 0-0 2, D’Ante Ross 1 0-0 2, Piotr Nizielski 2 0-0 5, Sean Wininger 1 0-0 3, Donovan Clingan 7 3-4 17, Maliki Matthews 0 2-2 2. Totals 22 5-6 52.
Quron Martin 2 0-0 4, Rafael Brown 2 0-0 5, Luther Nowlin 0 0-2 0, LJ Hazelwood 0 3-6 3, Michael Blackman 1 0-0 2, Clinton Allen 1 0-0 2, Dashawn Hill 0 0-2 0. Totals 6 3-6 16.
B. Central 13-17-13-9 – 52
Innovation 3-0-3-10 – 16
3-pointers: BC 2 (Wininger, Brown); In 1 (Brown).