Gollsneider's three completes comeback as Waterford edges New London
Waterford — Under normal circumstances, the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse would have been maniacal Saturday night. Undefeated Waterford and undefeated New London. Add a 56-56 game in the closing seconds and ... hold on to the roof.
Ah, but while this COVID high school basketball season rendered the X empty, the building's uncanny voodoo for the home team has extended into another season.
The Lancers, who have won several games in recent years at the buzzer, did it again. They rallied from a 14-point deficit and beat the Whalers, 59-56, using junior Nolan Gollsneider's 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left, to move to 3-0 on the season. New London is 2-1.
Waterford, which went nearly 10 years without beating New London in the not too distant past, has won six of the last nine games between the schools.
"Every day in practice, I look at Nolan and I say, 'I gotta start running some plays for him," Waterford coach Bill Bassett said.
Except that Gollsneider admitted the ball found his hands by happenstance.
"We wanted to get the ball to Sean (O'Connell) or Trev (Trevor D'Amico)," Gollsneider said. "Sean found me. When I let it go, I thought it was going to miss. When I saw it rattle in, I mean, that was amazing."
Gollsneider, whose dad, Dave, is the former boys' basketball coach at Montville, led the Lancers with 17 points. O'Connell and D'Amico had 16 apiece and Jordan Elci had nine off the bench in addition to some stout defense.
New London had a 37-23 early in the third quarter before Waterford began its rally. It wasn't easy, what with New London junior Rhodia Perry scoring seemingly whenever he touched the ball. Perry finished with a game-high 23.
"Staying together is a lesson every team has to learn," Bassett said. "We beat Bacon twice so far and the outcome of those games wasn't really in doubt in the fourth quarter. But when you play a team like this — a really good New London team — and you have to grind out every possession, that's when you learn about staying together even when things aren't going so well."
Sean Raymond added 13 for the Whalers, including a pair of baskets in the final minutes that have New London the lead twice.
New London coach Craig Parker was not happy after the game, believing a traveling violation should have been called on Waterford before Gollsneider launched the game winner.
Waterford and Fitch are atop the South Division of the Eastern Connecticut Conference, both at 3-0.
"It was tough there for a while," Gollsneider said. "We know this is a rivalry and we didn't want them coming in here and walking all over us. We had to stand up and show them what we're made of."
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