New Milford ends East Lyme's season

East Lyme — The game turned into a microcosm of the season for East Lyme High School: What began with so much promise ended in disappointment.

The Vikings squandered a 16-point lead in the second half Thursday night and lost to New Milford, 49-47, in the second round of the state Division III boys’ basketball tournament.

New Milford’s Jose Morales made a layup with 5.2 seconds remaining to snap a 47-47 tie. His teammate, Hunter Skelly, blocked Drew Menghi’s layup at the buzzer to preserve the win.

“We executed the play well,” East Lyme coach Jeff Bernardi said of the final play, which featured Luke Leonard’s length-of-the-court dash and dish to an open Menghi. “We got a good look. They made a great defensive play.”

The Vikings led 37-21 early in the third period before New Milford caught fire offensively. East Lyme’s first-half offensive precision failed to repeat itself in the second half.

“I thought we were rushing shots, even in the first half,” Bernardi said. “Our timing was off, although we were getting good looks. We tried to correct that at halftime. But we started to force things.”

East Lyme had trouble holding leads this year against Notre Dame (loss), Waterford (win) and Glastonbury (loss) as well.

“I think we got used to scoring quickly and efficiently in those games and then maybe stopped focusing on getting good looks,” Bernardi said. “We also went through stretches when we didn’t match the other team’s intensity.”

Leonard led the Vikes with 16 points and T.J. Horner had nine.

Eric Habjan led New Milford with 22.

And so East Lyme, which began the season ranked in the top 10 and with all-state guard Dev Ostrowski finished its season in the second round of the state tournament and with Ostrowski injured. Not the way Bernardi and his players thought it would finish.

“This is still an incredibly special senior class to me,” Bernardi said of a group that won back-to-back Eastern Connecticut Conference Div. I championships. “I hope they learned as much about basketball and life from me as I did from them. I hate to see it end. I’m not wise enough to know why this ended the way it did. But I do believe in silver linings and that the lessons the kids learned from this will serve them well in their adult life.”

m.dimauro@theday.com

 

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