Ain't over 'til it's over, as Lancers pull off opening night victory
East Lyme - At no point last year, not even during the season of their lives at Waterford High School, did the emotional pendulum swing like this.
Imagine what befell the Lancers Wednesday night in the only season opener in school history in which they could call themselves the defending boys' basketball state champs:
Miss 16 of 26 free throws.
Commit 28 turnovers.
Lose a 15-point lead in the final 4 minutes, 43 seconds of regulation ... and actually go down three in the closing seconds.
Tie the game at the buzzer with a prayer of a 3-pointer.
Trail by four again with 1:40 left in overtime.
And then close the game on a 10-2 run to finally slay East Lyme 64-60 in front of a wild crowd of dueling student sections.
"We're all resilient kids," Waterford junior Dan Martin said inside a happy locker room. "We'll never quit. We knew it would be a crazy atmosphere and a fun game. It really was."
The Lancers led 47-32 with 4:43 left. That's when a recipe of turnovers, quick shots, missed free throws and East Lyme senior Wade McNamara conspired to create a 17-2 run to tie the game with 1:06 left, capped by McNamara's second 3-pointer in 13 seconds.
"Wade just caught fire," Martin said. "All swishes, too."
Sophomore Jared Ayers followed with a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left, a rather auspicious time to make his lone field goal of the game.
Not even close. Waterford senior Ryan Brouwer, noticing how coach Greg Gwudz's play from the huddle wasn't working so well, grabbed a loose ball and drilled an off-balance 3 with two seconds left to force overtime.
"I think I bumped into (teammate) Dave Willox, too," Brouwer said. "I thought, 'there's got to be less than three seconds left.' It was definitely off balance. I've made shots like that in rec league before, but that's just playing around. This is a lot bigger. When I saw it drop ... I can't really explain it."
In overtime, East Lyme's Anthony Carambot made consecutive 3s within 19 seconds of each other to give the Vikings a 58-54 lead with 1:40 left.
Not even close.
Connor Lewis (layup, two clutch free throws), Donny Craig (layup, free throw) and Martin (3-pointer) keyed the 10-2 run that sealed it.
"It would have been easy to panic," Gwudz said. "Hey, East Lyme is a good team and Wade is a great player. I'm so proud they were able to refocus their energy and control the game again. That's pretty huge."
Martin led Waterford with 22 points. Craig and Schneider Jean-Pierre, who guarded McNamara well until fouling out, also had 10.
McNamara led East Lyme with 17 and Dean Beebe had 15.
"We had kids with a lot of heart who believed they could put some heat on them and never quit," East Lyme coach Jim Cunningham said. "For a little while, it looked like we had the magic."
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