MADISON — It had been nine years since its last title, but Old Lyme can finally take the Shoreline Conference boys’ basketball trophy home.
The top-seeded Wildcats (ranked 10th in the GametimeCT.com state poll) went on a big run to open the third quarter and defeated 3rd-seeded Morgan, 72-50, in the Shoreline championship game Thursday night at Polson Middle School.
“Since last year (in a loss to Cromwell) every night, I was just craving this feeling,” Shoreline Conference Player of the Year Aedan Using said afterwards. “I was in the locker room a year ago today crying for a solid 30 minutes. Now the bus ride home will be a lot better than it was last year.”
After being held to just 29 points in the first half, Old Lyme (22-1) went on a 27-9 run over the first 6:42 of the third quarter, led by Using (game high 29 points) with six of them to grab a 56-38 lead.
The Huskies were only able to get as close as 13 points, 59-46, in the fourth quarter on a conventional three-point play by Alex Fratamico (18 points) with 6:10 remaining in the game.
But Using scored eight points as Old Lyme went on an 8-2 run to grab a 67-48 lead with 3:42 to play, essentially putting away the Huskies.
“I think the Player of the Year played like the Player of the Year,” Old Lyme coach Kirk Kaczor said. “Aedan Using just took over. Aedan, Ray, Brady Jared and Ty — my seniors — came out smoking and were fired up.”
But the key was that Morgan simply had no one to counter Using, who scored 20 points in the second half after being held to nine in the first 16 minutes.
“Using is the Player of the Year for a reason,” Morgan coach Frank Rossi said. “When he is on his game, he wants to attack and be aggressive. We don’t have anyone like that.”
The first half was back and forth with the lead changing hands five times.
Morgan opened up its largest lead of the night, 14-9, on a bucket by Zach Johnson with 1:42 remaining the first quarter.
But Old Lyme went on a 15-3 spurt over three minutes in the second quarter, spurred by eight points by Using, to grab a 28-20 edge with 3:38 to play in the first half.
After taking a pair of timeouts during that stretch to try and halt the Wildcats’ momentum, Morgan went on a 9-1 run to end the first half with Rob Zirlis and Fratamico each hitting a pair of buckets. Fratamico’s runner in the lane with 25 seconds to go until intermission gave the Huskies a 29-28 edge.
However, Ray Doll hit one of two free throws to knot things back up at 29-29 at the break.
“We knew we had to pick up the intensity,” Using said. “It all starts on defense. They capitalized on some open looks. We’re a team that loves to run in transition. When we can’t get stops, we can’t do that.”
Kaczor wasn’t surprised it was close at the break.
“I know Morgan is a really good team,” Kaczor said. “We were expecting a close game. We beat them by 17 (67-50) last week, but last week means nothing. This is playoff time and we spent halftime trying to regroup.”
Morgan fell to 15-8 with the loss.
“Our inexperience and maturity showed in the third quarter,” Rossi said. “They sped us up and we made some poor decisions on offense. With a young team, that’s what happens especially when you play a team with experience, but to get to this game against a team of this caliber is so valuable going forward. This is just the beginning for us.”
Old Lyme’s Aedan Using scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half.
“We’ve been here a bunch of times but had trouble closing the door. It was one of our goals this year.” — Old Lyme coach Kirk Kaczor.