Young Old Lyme girls survive some chaos and rally past Westbrook

Old Lyme — The Old Lyme girls’ basketball team is young and inexperienced, which often results in chaos for any team with those traits.

Such was the case for the Wildcats against Westbrook on Monday. They often looked like a car trying to get up an icy hill — they’d make slow gains, but struggle to maintain traction.

Old Lyme came through in the end as senior Catey Battalino was fouled after a steal and made two go-ahead free throws with 28.4 seconds left to give Old Lyme a 52-49 win in a Shoreline Conference nail biter.

“We dug a hole in the beginning,” Battalino said. “We calmed down. What it came down to was foul shots. In practice, we always say we’ve got to take advantage of the small opportunities. This game, it was the foul shots.”

Battalino made half of her team’s fouls shots — the Wildcats shot 10 of 23 from the line. They also trailed the majority of the game, including a 46-40 deficit with over four minutes remaining. Old Lyme closed with a 12-3 run.

That kind of inconsistency is often the norm for young teams. Britney DeRoehn is the only returning starter for Old Lyme (10-5, 8-5). She and Battalino are also the only seniors.

The Wildcats have been understandably unpredictable at times. They edged defending Class S state champion Coginchaug last Tuesday (49-47). Two days later, they were blah in a 35-20 loss to East Hampton (13-1, 11-1), which has the second-best conference record.

“(Sophomore) Emma McCulloch came off the bench for us (last season),” Wildcats head coach Don Bugbee said. “Catie came off the bench, too. That’s it. We’re young, there’s no doubt about that. I started three sophomores (earlier in the season). We’re back to two with a junior.

“We’re young. We played great against Coginchaug, and then the air came out of the tires and we weren’t very good at all against East Hampton. We regrouped and had good practices since then. Tonight, we fought hard.”

Sophomore Sam Gray had 19 points and five rebounds for Old Lyme and junior Taylor Thompson added nine points and 15 rebounds (six offensive).

Westbrook (7-8, 5-8) was led by seniors Savannah Marshall (26 points, nine rebounds and three steals) and Gabriella Ehlert (16 points).

The Wildcats trailed by six points with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining when Gray made back-to-back layups to cut the deficit to 46-44.

Battalino made the second of two free throws with 2:37 remaining as Old Lyme got within a point. Thompson’s layup put the Wildcats ahead, 47-46, with 1:50 left.

Marshall was fouled six seconds later and made the second of two free throws. The Wildcats traveled on their next possession, and Ehlert followed up her own missed shot by getting the rebound and making a short jumper to put Westbrook ahead again, 49-47, with 1:08 remaining.

Gray tied it moments later with another driving layup. Battalino followed with a steal on the other end, was fouled, and made her free throws.

“I’ve always said, since I was little, that it’s going to come down to foul shots,” Battalino said. “I knew going up to the line that I had to put them in or we were going to lose the game.”

Old Lyme had missed six of eight free throws that quarter prior to Battalino’s game-winners.

“During timeouts, we were talking about just settling down and taking advantage of what they were giving us, and they were giving us foul shot opportunities,” Bugbee said. “So take advantage of that.

“We should’ve taken advantage of that sooner than we did, but I’ll take it.”

n.griffen@theday.com

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