Waterford boys hold off NFA before 3,046 at Mohegan Sun Arena
Mohegan — If they ever decide to annex the "X" at Waterford High School, then this must be the logical place.
Because it appears the Lancers feel more at home at Mohegan Sun Arena than in their own living rooms, let alone the "X," otherwise known as the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse, their homecourt.
The top-seeded Lancers, the maestros of Mohegan, won their second championship in Neon Uncasville in less than a year Tuesday night, dispatching No. 3 Norwich Free Academy, 65-60, earning the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament title before 3,046 fans, the largest crowd to ever witness an ECC tournament game.
It is Waterford's second straight ECC Division I tournament title.
Waterford (22-1) is undefeated in three games at Mohegan Sun. The Lancers won the Division III state title at Mohegan Sun last March and the 2012 Class M state championship here as well.
"The atmosphere here is amazing. We just played in front of 3,000 people," Spellman said. "Not many high school kids can say that. A great feeling. We hope to be back here in two weeks (for the state finals)."
Tournament Most Outstanding Player J.J. Brennan, who scored 10 huge points in the final three minutes, led the Lancers with 22 points. Liam Spellman added 15 points and 16 rebounds while Ryan O'Connell had five points and 13 rebounds. Nolan Molkenthin and Mason Jackson had 14 points apiece for NFA, while Xavier Marquez had 13 and Nik Hay had 11.
Waterford, which led by 10 at halftime, stretched its lead to as many as 16 in the second half. Cadin Maynard came off the bench to hit a three and make two free throws giving his team a 45-29 lead late in the third period.
NFA rallied, however, and got within three with 2:19 left on Molkenthin's second straight 3-pointer. But the Wildcats never got closer, thanks mostly to Brennan who scored eight straight points for Waterford at one point.
"The game got close and I knew I had to start doing my thing," Brennan said. "Last year (in the state finals) I shot the ball pretty well. I knew the feel of the rims."
Waterford coach Bill Bassett said, "The thing we take away from this game is the value of every possession. We've had big leads this year and have thrown away a possession or two. We have to see when that momentum is coming."
The Lancers trailed 9-4 early before consecutive baskets from Kenny Hill (a 3-pointer and driving layup) tied it at nine.
Waterford led by three late in the first half until O'Connell's natural three-point play gave his team a 22-16 lead. Brennan hit threes with 1:11 and 42.4 seconds remaining, giving Waterford its biggest lead at 30-17.
Hay's 3-pointer at the first-half horn pulled NFA with 10 (30-20) at halftime.
Waterford has won 37 of its last 38 games and has earned a bye in next week's Division II state tournament. It will play at home in the second round next Wednesday against the winner of the No. 16 Brookfield/No. 17 Hartford Public game.
NFA (17-6) has the No. 14 seed in the Division I tournament, featuring the top four teams in the latest GameTime CT poll: Sacred Heart, East Catholic, Bassick and Notre Dame of West Haven. The Wildcats will play Weaver in the first round.
2018-19 ECC AWARD WINNERS / BOYS' BASKETBALL
Following is a list 2018-19 Eastern Connecticut Conference boys' basketball award winners:
First team: Dev Ostrowski (East Lyme), Mason Jackson (NFA), Ken Turner (Ledyard), Luke Leonard (East Lyme), Noah James (New London).
Honorable mention: Nik Hay (NFA), Xavier Marquez (NFA), Tayeshawn Cunningham-Pemberton (New London), Seamus McGrath (New London), Nate Diaz (East Lyme).
Scholar-athlete: Andrew Menghi (East Lyme), Xander Hutchins (Ledyard), Derek Raymond (New London), Nik Hay (NFA).
Sportsmanship: Jacob Peters (East Lyme), Elijah Morton (Ledyard), Tayeshawn Cunningham-Pemberton (New London), Carlos Montrond (NFA).
First team: Luke Desaulnier (Killingly), Chase Anderson (Woodstock), JJ Brennan (Waterford), Liam Spellman (Waterford), Ajia Brown (Fitch).
Honorable mention: Payton Sutman (Waterford), Kiev Lucas (Fitch), Cole Hackett (Woodstock), Jordan Guerra (Bacon Academy), Shayne Bigelow (Killingly).
Scholar-athlete: Yianni Koutsofavas (Bacon), Ajia Brown (Fitch), Chris Lackner (Killingly), Cadin Maynard (Waterford), Cole Hackett (Woodstock).
Sportsmanship: Joshua Stewart (Bacon), Yaniel Hernandez (Fitch), Nolan Marcoux (Killingly), Dylan Eckhart (Waterford), Aidan Morin (Woodstock).
First team: Max Lee (St. Bernard), Markeith Conyers (Plainfield), Joe Beltran (St. Bernard), Zach Scott (Stonington), RJ Parrilla (Stonington).
Honorable mention: Jhakobie Watson (Windham), DeAndre Williams (St. Bernard), Jacob Geary (Stonington), Pharoah Curtis (Griswold), CJ Matson (Griswold).
Scholar-athlete: Mike Sims (Griswold), Tyler Ahearn (Plainfield), Max Lee (St. Bernard), Cooper Wall (Stonington), Jhakobie Watson (Windham).
Sportsmanship: Jason Hall (Griswold), Kyle Holt (Plainfield), Quincy Francois (St. Bernard), Tyler Fidrych (Stonington), KJ Adams (Windham).
First team: Josh Dodd (Tourtellotte), Josh Perry (Lyman Memorial), Sebastian Ramos (Putnam), Zach Dunnack (Lyman Memorial), Zach Southard (Montville).
Honorable mention: Spencer Fulone (Tourtellotte), Colby Livingston (Putnam), Bowen Baker (Wheeler), Dylan Lucey (Lyman Memorial), Ethan McKinney (Montville).
Scholar-athlete: Jack Anderson (Lyman Memorial), Jason Chen (Montville), Mike DiCollela (Putnam), Spencer Fulone (Tourtellotte), Seth Jones (Wheeler).
Sportsmanship: Zach Dunnack (Lyman Memorial), Ryan Champagne (Montville), Kobie Bates (Putnam), Dylan Vincent (Tourtellotte), Nolan Arruda (Wheeler).
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