Waterford beats Prince Tech and will play for state title at Mohegan Sun Arena
North Haven — Someone once asked Waterford boys' basketball coach Bill Bassett if he felt secure with Mikey Buscetto controlling the game in the fourth quarter.
"Any coach in the state would," Bassett said.
Bassett is comfortable with breathing oxygen, too.
The Lancers led Prince Tech from the opening tip of Wednesday night's CIAC Division III semifinal and pushed their lead to as much as 21 points.
Waterford needed a closer late when the Falcons made a run and Buscetto delivered. He scored 15 of his 27 points in the fourth as the No. 2 Lancers took down No. 3 Prince Tech 77-68 at Fred Kelly Gymnasium.
Rise-and-shine Sunday morning, Lancer Nation. You have to fill up Mohegan Sun Arena.
"I've been dreaming about this since my freshman year, running out of that arena," Buscetto said. "I went to all the games. I just wanted to be on that floor and show them what I can do.
"I want a ring on my finger and then my dreams will come true."
Waterford (24-2) will play No. 9 Avon on Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. Avon scored on an inbounds play at the buzzer to stun No. 5 Enfield 76-75 in their semifinal.
The Lancers won their first and only title (Class M) at the Arena in 2012. Avon (17-9) has won two state titles.
"We had this expectation that we wanted to go to the Sun," Waterford's Liam Spellman said. "Hopefully we can get one more (win)."
Buscetto had 10 assists and four steals and Eric Pinch scored 16 points for the Lancers. Spellman added eight points, seven rebounds and two assists, Trevor Yeomans scored 11 off the bench and Walker Sutman had five rebounds.
Spellman started the Lancers' onslaught by grabbing the opening tip and getting it to Max Mazzella for a layup.
"I read (the tip) like a book," Spellman said with a smile. "I knew (Kaheem Stewart) was going to (tip it) to (Delshawn Jackson)."
Spellman and Buscetto made back-to-back 3-pointers to give Waterford an 8-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
The Lancers continued to carve Prince up, whether it was making wide-open 3-pointers, beating the Falcons in transition or on backdoor cuts.
"We play well with the doors open and flying," Bassett said. "We go up-and-down as well as anybody in the state. If another team wants to go up-and-down (with us), we welcome the chance."
Spellman said, "That's our style: run-and-gun."
Pinch closed the first quarter with a 3-pointer and took Spellman's steal for a layup to give Waterford a 28-11 lead after one quarter.
The Lancers led 45-28 at halftime with Pinch making a runner at the buzzer. They made 7 of 11 3-pointers in that half.
Asked if that was Waterford's best half of the season, Bassett said, "No, well, maybe, but it's not coming to my mind right now. These guys came out and they hit their shots and they played tremendous defense. To hold Prince Tech to (28) means that our defense was really playing hard."
Buscetto picked up his third foul late in the first half and sat most of the third quarter.
Waterford pushed its lead to 51-30 early in the third quarter when Kazell Stewart (22 points) and Jackson (28 points) helped drag the Falcons (23-3) back into the game.
Jackson's runner cut the Lancers' lead to 58-53 with five minutes, 43 seconds left in the game.
Buscetto responded with four straight free throws and a 3-pointer. He then hurled a long pass to an open Pinch for a layup and a 67-55 Waterford lead with less than four minutes left.
Buscetto made 10 of his 12 free throws in the fourth.
"I didn't play most of the third quarter, and I just had to go back out there and figure out how I could get us the win, and it came down to free throws," Buscetto said. "This summer, I'm not lying, my dad would have me outside shooting 100 free throws and I was usually in the 75-to-80 (percent) range, but every day I was out there shooting. Me, Tyler Peretz, Omar (Rahman) ... we were all out there.
"It all comes down to free throws. ... They're huge."
As was Buscetto.
"He came up big in the fourth quarter," Spellman said. "We needed that. (He was) tremendous. That's what a senior does."
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