East Lyme rallies from six back late to nip Bunnell in CIAC Div. III tourney

East Lyme — It was during a pregame conversation — and the pregame lasted more than an hour because the assigned officials never showed — that East Lyme High School coach Jeff Bernardi perhaps unwittingly provided some foreshadowing.

Bernardi, fully aware his fourth-seeded Vikings had a toughie upcoming with No. 13 Bunnell, acknowledged his opponent's ability. But he quickly countered.

"But," he said, "we have Dev."

Indeed.

And it was Dev Ostrowski who scored his team's last six points. East Lyme all but walked barefoot over broken glass to escape with a 70-69 win, earning a trip to the CIAC Division III quarterfinals Saturday (and another home game) against the winner of Friday's game between No. 5 Enfield and No. 21 Harding.

The Vikings, trailing most of the night, were behind 67-61 with 2:13 left.

"It feels like we're in that position like every other night," Ostrowski said. "That's not an exaggeration. We knew our season was on the line. We had to play our hearts out and trust each other."

Ostrowski's basket with 36 seconds left gave East Lyme a 68-67 lead. He made two free throws with 16.8 seconds left to make it 70-67, but fouled Bunnell's Max Edwards shooting a three with 4.7 seconds left.

Edwards made two of three. East Lyme had the lead, but allowed the Bulldogs the offensive rebound. Bunnell inbounded with three seconds left.

Elijah Alexandre's jumper at the buzzer was errant, keeping East Lyme's season alive.

The Vikings (20-4) also took a charge and forced a five-second call on Bunnell's possessions inside the final two minutes.

It hadn't been an easy night, what with the quality opponent and an hour-plus wait for other officials to arrive. Nor an easy week for the Vikings, who had ample time to ponder the loss to Waterford in the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship game.

"It gave us time to think about what we needed to work on," Ostrowski said. "We lost to Bunnell last year and we wanted revenge. Plus, we knew Waterford was here tonight watching and we wanted to send them a message."

Waterford and East Lyme could potentially meet in the state Division III title game at Mohegan Sun Arena.

First, though, there are games to be played.

"Luke (Leonard) J.R. (Gandenberger) and Dev wouldn't let us lose," Bernardi said. "I have complete faith in a guy like Dev to turn something out of nothing. That's what he did tonight."

Ostrowski led East Lyme with 34 points. Leonard had 15, including a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the third period. Gandenberger had 14. Edwards led Bunnell with 18.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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