Top-seeded Waterford routs Brookfield 80-52 in state tourney debut

Waterford — It was during the past week off that Bill Bassett, math teacher, tried his hand at philosophy. And what he told senior Liam Spellman should be on bulletin boards across Connecticut this week as a reference tool for his fellow high school basketball coaches.

"I told Liam that for seniors this week, you can either embrace the moment or fear it," Bassett said Tuesday night. "And the sooner you embrace it, the better you'll play. He's been smiling ever since."

Spellman didn't merely embrace the moment in Waterford's Division II second-round state tournament game at the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse. He bear-hugged it, particularly when he threw a lob in transition to teammate Ryan O'Connell, whose resounding dunk highlighted the No. 1 Lancers' 80-52 win over No. 16 Brookfield.

Waterford (23-1) advanced to Friday's quarterfinals to play No. 8 Fairfield Warde on Friday night at the X. The Lancers, the state's defending Div. III champion, have won 38 of their last 39 games.

"I think JJ (Brennan) got the steal, got it to me and I saw Oak (O'Connell) sprinting," Spellman said. "I was throwing that lob no matter what. He banged it."

It gave Waterford a 23-5 lead at the time.

"We've wanted to do that all year," O'Connell said. "I could see Liam running. When he threw that lob, I was like, 'sweet.'"

The Lancers were never threatened in a game between the two smallest enrollment public school teams in Division II. Waterford and Brookfield barely have more than 400 boys apiece.

Brennan led the Lancers with 22 points. O'Connell had 12 and Dylan Eckhart scored 10 off the bench. Spellman finished with nine points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Kenny Hill had nine points and Nate Landon finished with 10 rebounds and five blocks.

It was Waterford's first game in more than a week since winning the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title over Norwich Free Academy at Mohegan Sun Arena.

"If you had seen our recent practices, we were ready," Spellman said. "We came out fiery."

Bassett wasn't so sure how his team would look after a week off.

"A week off and then coming off that win in that atmosphere at Mohegan Sun," Bassett said. "Then we get a snow day and have little time to prepare. But I tell my guys all the time that you have to be good at adapting. We've done that well all year."

Warde (16-8) defeated crosstown rival Ludlowe 49-45 on Tuesday night at home.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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