Ostrowski, Gandenberger rally East Lyme past Xavier 61-51
Middletown — Xavier has played some pretty good teams this season.
The Falcons played twice this season against Guilford, Hamden and the kings of state boys' basketball, Hillhouse, all ranked in the GameTimeCT.com top 10 state poll.
Xavier head coach Mike Kohs puts East Lyme on that list, too.
"They're very good," Kohs said about the Vikings after Dev Ostrowski poured 34 points for a 61-51 win at Art Kohs Gymnasium.
"Obviously, they're guard-oriented and guard dominant. ... (point guard) Luke Leonard is an excellent player, but the difference tonight was Dev. He took over."
The Falcons took a 37-33 lead into the fourth quarter. Ostrowski quickly erased it. He scored 13 points in a little under three minutes to start the period, turning a four-point deficit into a 46-39 lead with 5 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the game.
"This was great," Ostrowski said about playing outside of the Eastern Connecticut Conference. "I see all the GameTimeCT comments, 'oh, East Lyme can't play with this team, blah-blah-blah-blah. We've played Xavier. Now we're after Prince Tech.
"Prove people wrong."
JR Gandenberger scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for the Vikings (16-2), the ECC Division I champion. Leonard added eight rebounds and Ostrowski had five rebounds and four steals.
Junior Jackson Benigni, who should make some lucky team in the New England Small College Athletic Conference very happy one day, scored 20 for the Falcons (11-8). That included his 1,000th career point.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Williams was out with an injury for Xavier, which has wins over ninth-ranked Hillhouse (58-55, Jan. 6) and No. 10 Guilford (63-60, Feb. 6). The latter, like East Lyme, is a CIAC Division III contender.
"We're looking to play good competition," Vikings head coach Jeff Bernardi said. "You know what you're getting with Xavier. They're very deliberate, disciplined, well-coached and organized. They play a SCC schedule. They played (Monday) night and lost by one (48-47). They had an opportunity to win at the buzzer. We looked forward to this game. This is a big win for our program."
Ostrowski opened the fourth quarter with two free throws. Matt Bielenda made two of his own moments later to give Xavier a 39-35 lead with 7:04 remaining.
Ostrowski proceeded to go berserk. He made a 3-pointer, followed by taking a rebound and going coast-to-coast for a layup. He drove a double team inside for another basket, took another rebound the length of the floor for a pull-up jumper, and made another in transition to push East Lyme ahead, 46-39, with 5:02 left.
"I just got into a groove," Ostrowski said. "Then we (the team) started rolling like usual."
Kohs said, "We went from up four to down five or six and it seemed like in a hurry. They weren't uncontested shots, either. I actually thought we defended him pretty well. He's just that good of a player, and he stepped up when they needed him to."
Gandenberger made back-to-back 3-pointers to extend East Lyme's lead to 52-42 with 3:50 remaining.
"He's been doing that for the last 10 games, I'd say," Bernardi said of Gandenberger. "The reason we are 16-2, he is every single reason. He's been a part of that. Tonight, he was great."
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