Motivated Prince Tech boys jump all over East Lyme 74-58

Hartford — Jeff Bernardi didn't see any energy from his East Lyme boys' basketball team during warmups before Tuesday's game against Prince Tech.

Bernardi was right, and Prince made the Vikings pay the price.

Kozell Stewart scored on a dunk after the opening tip as the Falcons were out to make a really loud statement to the rest of the state. They did that and more in their 74-58 win over the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I champions at Mark Snyder Gymnasium.

"They were the more assertive team this evening," Bernardi said. "They had more energy in their step. They beat us to loose balls. They outrebounded us. They got so many second-chance points, and they were already more athletic and bigger. When they have more bounce in their step, we weren't going to win that fight.

"We got punched in the mouth, and we never recovered from it."

Motivation was not an issue for Prince Tech (18-2), which led by as much as 61-37 with over five minutes left in the game.

The Falcons were ticked off having lost their second game at the buzzer last Friday at Crosby, 71-69. Gio Lopez made a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to give New London a 64-61 win over Prince on Feb. 8.

"Crosby stormed the court," Falcons head coach Kendall May said with a smiled. "We lost to New London and they stormed the court. I'm tired of people storming the court."

Oh, that wasn't the end of Prince's motivation. East Lyme (17-3) moved back into the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register poll at No. 10 this week. The Falcons are 17th.

"This was a statement game," said Prince's Delshawn Jackson Jr. (30 points). "A real big statement game."

The Falcons are also aware of the perceptoin people have for tech schools. They may have road wins over the likes of Immaculate (66-62) and Norwich Free Academy (53-50), but when folks think of a tech school ...

"They automatically assume an easy win," May said. "And we're not that kind of team.

"I went and got games from as many of the conferences that are considered power conferences. … I wanted to make sure our kids had an opportunity, first, to play against great talent, and to legitimize us because of the tech school schedule."

Stewart — a 6-foot-4 sophomore — had 13 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and two blocks for Prince and Mike Best scored 19. Kaheem Stewart, a 6-7 center, added 16 rebounds (seven offensive).

The Falcons wiped out East Lyme on the boards 54-30. That included 20 offensive rebounds. Prince took 20 free throws to the Vikings' eight, a testament to its ability to get to the basket.

Dev Ostrowski scored 20 points for the Vikings and JR Gandenberger scored 12.

Guilford (19-1) will be the top-seed in Division III, followed by Waterford (18-2), Prince and East Lyme. The pairings will be released on Feb. 28.

"We didn't have enough energy to match them on Senior Night," East Lyme's Luke Leonard. "The layup line showed it all (Prince took 20 free throws, the Vikings eight). It explained the game. We've got to come out with more energy, no matter where we play, because we're going to have to do this during the state tournament.

"I think it was a good wake-up call for us. It just makes us want (a state title) more."

n.griffen@theday.com

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