Waterford routs East Lyme for first ECC boys' hoop tournament title
Waterford — Waterford wasn't having any of it on Wednesday night.
Waterford wasn't going to let another team celebrate an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' basketball championship on its floor.
Waterford wasn't going to allow East Lyme to rally in the fourth quarter and win, something the Vikings have done frequently this season.
Waterford wasn't going to be denied its first ECC tournament title in program history.
Tournament MVP Mikey Buscetto put on a show as the second-seeded Lancers used a decisive fourth quarter to beat top-seeded East Lyme 69-53 before a standing-room-only crowd of 1,800 squeezed into the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse.
"The X" finally gets its ECC boys' basketball tournament championship banner.
"Another team celebrating on our floor, cutting the nets down, we thought about that the whole year," Buscetto said, referring to last year's championship loss to Ledyard.
"All the offseason workouts, everything, this was in our mind. It's just a relief to have it all pay off."
Buscetto had a game-high 28 points with eight rebounds, six steals and four assists. It was highlighted by him taking an inbounds pass with two seconds left in the first quarter just in front of halfcourt and heaving it up for a 3-pointer and a 17-9 lead.
"You know how he surprised me in today's game — he controlled the tempo," Waterford head coach Bill Bassett said about the Southern New Hampshire-bound senior. "Usually we're going (fast), we're going. No. He got the ball. I'm the point guard. We're slowing it down. We're going to run our sets.
"He really stepped up as a floor general tonight."
Walker Sutman had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Lancers (21-2) and J.J. Brennan scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. Both joined Buscetto on the all-tournament team.
Dev Ostrowski (26 points, three steals) and Luke Leonard (13 points, three steals) both made the all-tournament team for the Vikings (19-4).
East Lyme won at Waterford in the only regular season meeting between the teams, 64-60, on Jan. 18.
"We shot ourselves in the foot countless times," Vikings head coach Jeff Bernardi said about Wednesday's final. "We had so many ill-advised plays. We didn't box out every possession, and they got too many second-chance points."
Waterford had a 41-35 edge in rebounds, including 12 offensive boards.
"You give a good team like Waterford that many opportunities and they're going to bury you," Bernardi said. "The mistakes we made finally caught up to us in the fourth quarter and they just ran away with it."
Waterford led almost the entire game and took a 46-40 lead into the fourth quarter.
Ostrowski made the first of two free throws to begin the fourth.
The Lancers blew East Lyme out of the gym with a 17-3 run. Buscetto started it with a 3-pointer. Then it was Brennan's time.
"We didn't have our run yet going into the fourth quarter," Buscetto said. "We knew it was coming. I knew that J.J. Brennan was going to heat up, and that kid took over and he did what we needed him to do for us."
Brennan's 3-pointer gave Waterford a 56-43 lead with five minutes, 14 seconds left in the game. He ended the run with successive layups as the Lancers took a commanding 63-44 lead with 1:47 left.
"The first couple of quarters he was a little cold, but he's going to come around," Bassett said. "You know what it was? 'J, you're in there (the game), you're our 3-point shooter. Make sure you get the (space) you need and you bury them."
An ECC title in hand, Waterford now looks to win its second CIAC state title. It's the No. 2 seed in the Division III tournament, which begins next week (East Lyme is fourth).
"We're just going try to continue to make history and follow the wave," Buscetto said.
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