Lancer Nation: There's nothing quite like it

Mohegan — This was a few minutes before tip Sunday in Neon Uncasville and arena sound engineer Lefty Rothstein, even with the deft touch, chose to play "Rock This Town" by the Stray Cats, perhaps (or perhaps not) unwittingly giving the patrons some foreshadowing.

We're gonna rock this town, rock it inside out, the lyric goes.

Did they ever.

The kids.

The coaches.

And what felt like the whole town.

Indeed, the smartest person in America Sunday morning would have been a burglar in Waterford. Because nobody was home. They were all watching their Lancers win the Division III state  basketball championship.

Lancerdom, aside from a small pocket of Avon loyalists, took over the entire lower bowl and part of the upper section, this (relatively) little town coming out en masse for their boys.

"We had all of Waterford behind us," senior Walker Sutman was saying in the delirium that followed Waterford 90, Avon 67. "So special. We know it's not like this in other towns. I dreamed as a little kid of shooting free throws at Mohegan Sun in the finals. We played our entire lives for this moment. And everyone was here to see it."

This state championship thing is becoming a habit in the 06385. Consider what Waterford High has wrought in this decade:

Softball: three state titles.

Basketball: two state titles.

Other state championships in girls' soccer, girls' volleyball, cheerleading, baseball and even hockey. Yes, three Waterford kids were big players on the Eastern Connecticut Eagles' hockey state championship team Saturday at Yale.

Few — if any — other towns in Connecticut have that many titles in so many different sports in their history, let alone a decade. And so next time you wonder why Waterford is covered so much here, you have your answer. Churchill said history is written by the victors. And the writers write about the victors.

This isn't some high school with thousands of students. Or a school of choice that gets kids from multiple towns. This is a quiet shoreline community whose athletic success belies (its size) and defies (logic).

Maybe that's why Mr. Waterford, otherwise known as outgoing athletic director Dave Sousa, had tears in his eyes Sunday watching the kids pile on each other.

"We know every town isn't like this," Sousa said. "I know other towns view themselves as athletic towns. But we are very fortunate to have what we do. They get started early. People really care. You saw that here today."

Sousa estimated that through ticket sales, Waterford people along were responsible for 4,000 in the crowd. This is a town of 20,000. Which means a fifth of it was in one place.

"It's not just basketball. Our community backs every team," said assistant coach, Waterford grad and true, blue Lancer Tim Lineburgh. "It's a tribute to the kids. It means our town as a lot of good kids in it."

Many of them are on the basketball team. Quite the fun team all year. Sunday marked the seventh time this year the Lancers played before more than 1,000 fans. Not sure that's ever happened with any other team in any other sport in our history.

How fitting that Waterford coach Bill Bassett allowed his Masterful Maestro, Mikey Buscetto, a curtain call with a few seconds left Sunday. Mikey bear hugged his coach and teammates, weeping. This is the same kid who cried tears of sorrow a year earlier, after the Lancers got bounced in the second round. Now the tears were borne of pure joy.

The Maestro had 27 points, 10 assists and four rebounds, earning every second of the prolonged ovation he received.

They celebrated long into the day and night Sunday, as they have after many victories this season. They won their last 15 games, the Lancers did, captivating their town. Just as so many other state champs had before them.

"Look at this," junior Liam Spellman was saying amid the jubilation. "Lancer Nation. There's just nothing else like it."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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