Buzzer-beating basket sinks Waterford in Class M semis

Newington — Waterford's surprising Class M girls' basketball tournament run ended with tears instead of cheers.

Senior Sydney Gouveia's buzzer-beating 3-pointer lifted fourth-seeded New Fairfield to a thrilling 46-43 semifinal win and sent the No. 9 Lancers home one stop short of the state championship game.

"It was exciting and it was great," coach Mark Capasso said of his team's postseason run. "I'm very proud of them. But it's a tough way to lose to be that close."

Mia Brennan finished with a team-high 18 points and fellow senior Kayla Jean-Pierre scored 14 points to lead the Lancers (20-6).

Two critical turnovers in the final frantic 27 seconds gave New Fairfield a chance to win the game.

"We're like a younger team so we weren't ready for the moment as much as we could have been," Jean-Pierre said. "But I'm proud of my team for getting this far. I couldn't thank them enough for a good season. Waterford hasn't gotten this far in I don't know how many years, so I couldn't be happier for us."

With the score deadlocked at 43-all, the Lancers committed a backcourt violation in the face of defensive pressure. Then, after forcing a New Fairfield turnover, they threw an errant cross-court pass that went out of bounds with 12.4 seconds remaining.

Coming out of a timeout, New Fairfield worked the ball around and eventually found Gouveia who calmly buried the long 3-pointer from the wing for the game-winner.

"Oh God, that was the best feeling in the world to make that shot," said Gouveia, who had 11 points. "We're finally going to the championship. ... (Coach Brendan Moore) said, 'someone has got to have the guts to take the shot and get it in.' It was in my hands with two seconds left and I just let it go."

The Lancers did a decent job defensively on the play but Gouveia found just enough space to shoot. It was New Fairfield's first lead since the first quarter.

"She hit a good shot for them," Jean-Pierre said. "It was just their day."

The game was tight throughout, as the two teams headed to the locker room tied at 20-all at halftime. Brennan had eight of her 11 first half points in the second quarter to propel the Lancers in front.

Waterford took charge early in the second half, riding an 11-0 spurt to a 35-22 edge with three minutes left in the third quarter. Brennan scored five straight points and sophomore Julianna Bonilla turned a steal into a fast-break basket to cap the run.

New Fairfield was a different team coming out of a timeout, quickly closing the gap to 35-29 by scoring seven straight points to end the third quarter. Senior Kristen Teklits (19 points) drained a three to jump-start the Rebels.

"Then we knew we had to fight it out," Capasso said.

Waterford fought to hang on in the fourth quarter. Jean-Pierre's inside basket handed the Lancers a 43-39 edge with 1:42 remaining. But that would be their last points.

"When we were up two we were trying to tell the girls just hold the ball," Capasso said. "I guess they didn't hear it. ... I would have liked to run out the clock right there and make them foul us."

g.keefe@theday.com

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