Waterford boys hang on for 57-55 win over East Lyme

East Lyme — It would have been considered, by most rational measures, a desperation three at the buzzer. But then, the shooter was Nate Diaz, the senior at East Lyme High School, who was so hot in the fourth quarter Tuesday night he did everything but stop, drop and roll.

"It reminded me of last season when Dev (Ostrowski) made that shot from about 87 feet," Waterford coach Bill Bassett said, recalling his thoughts when Diaz let go of the potential game-winner. Diaz had already made five other threes in the period, rescuing the Vikings from an 11-point deficit.

Happily for Bassett — but not so much for the Vikings — Diaz missed. And the Lancers escaped with a 57-55 win, enough to qualify for the Division II state tournament and defend their title.

Waterford (8-11) also gave itself a chance to play host to a conference tournament quarterfinal next week, knowing the semifinals are also scheduled for the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse. Translation: plenty left to play for.

"We talked about that," Bassett said. "Look, we know everyone is gunning for us. And rightfully so. But if we stay together and play to our potential, we have a dangerous team."

The Lancers led 46-35 after three quarters. And then Mount Diaz went volcanic. He made three straight 3-pointers, the third of which got the Vikings within two. East Lyme (6-13) tied the game later at 55-55 after Diaz made his fifth 3-pointer of the period off a turnover. Waterford had the ball with 20 seconds left.

And while the Lancers didn't exactly run the play Bassett wanted, the ball found its way to sophomore Sean O'Connell, who illustrated why he'll be a major part of the future in Lancerville. O'Connell drove the lane for a layup with 4.4 seconds left.

"I saw a clear lane," O'Connell said. "We really needed this game. It's a rivalry. We didn't want to lose to them again."

East Lyme won at the "X" two weeks ago as its students stormed the floor. Lancer Nation returned the favor Tuesday.

"Our guys needed this," Bassett said. "They've been battling. It was that grinding element. And we needed it. East Lyme is disciplined and plays really hard."

Diaz led the Vikes with 28 points. T.J. Horner had 11.

"It's disappointing," East Lyme coach Jeff Bernardi said. "We had some expectations for this group. Some injuries, some bad luck. But the kids played hard all along."

Ryan O'Connell led Waterford with 16 points and Trevor D'Amico had 11.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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