Pictured: Old Lyme’s Ellery Zrenda (15) grabs a rebound while teammate Grace Lathrop (3) looks on in Tuesday’s Shoreline tournament semifinal against East Hampton. Keeping a close eye on Zrenda are Bellringers Mya Field (25) and Danielle Adams (34).
By Marc Silvestrini
DURHAM – East Hampton, the No. 1 seed in the Shoreline Conference girls basketball tournament, put on a defensive clinic its semifinal game Tuesday night, holding Old Lyme to no more than eight points in each quarter en route to a 46-21 victory.
The win sends the Belringers back to the tournament final on Friday where they will meet Morgan, a 41-40 winner over four-time defending champion Cromwell in the first semifinal of the night.
The championship game will tip off at 7 p.m. at Old Saybrook High School.
The Bellringers are now 20-1 on the season while Old Lyme drops to 15-8.
“All year long, from the very start of the season, we’ve been emphasizing defense and we’ve played it a fairly high level,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “That’s pretty much what you saw tonight – a team that’s focused on playing defense as a unit and staying connected to each other.”
“Tonight we also got off to a good, quick start on offense,” added Russell, who was the runner-up to Cromwell in last year’s title game. “We executed our offense well and got some good shots early in the game.”
Those shots enabled the Bellringers to score the first 10 points of the game on the way to a 12-4 lead after one quarter of play. The Wildcats were able to draw to within five, at 12-7, early in the second quarter, but East Hampton promptly scored the last 10 points to take a 15-point advantage at the half.
And that was it for Old Lyme.
“We didn’t play very well tonight and you just can’t do that against a fundamentally sound team like East Hampton,” Old Lyme coach Don Bugbee said. “They rebound well, they push the ball up the floor real well, and they can finish.
“They’re real strong in just about every facet of the game – at least they were tonight.”
Mya Field had a big game for East Hampton with 18 points while teammate Angela Mercaldi added 8 points and played a strong floor game for the Bellringers.
Megan Loflin led the Wildcats with 6 points while Emily DeRoehn added 5.
“We played pretty well tonight in all phases. We played together, we played our game,” Mercaldi said.
Asked about Friday night’s matchup with Morgan, she added: “We know Morgan is going to be very tough. They have strong players, their offense and defense look pretty solid. But we’ve played them before and we know we can match up with them.”
East Hampton and Morgan met way back on Dec. 30 and the Bellringers came away with a 34-23 win.
Two early buckets by Hannah Barrientos and a bucket and pair of free throws by Field highlighted the Bellringers’ 10-0 run at the beginning of the game. DeRoehn scored two consecutive baskets late in the quarter to enable the Wildcats to climb back to within six, but a drive by Field with 6 seconds left in the quarter boosted the Bellringer lead to eight, at 12-4, after the first quarter.
Loflin’s short bank and a free throw by DeRoehn helped the Wildcats close to within five, at 12-7, with 5:45 to play in the half, but four points by Field and three by Mercaldi enabled the Bellringers to launch a 10-0 run over the final five minutes of the quarter to grab a 22-7 halftime lead.
Field’s four points and three from Barrientos enabled East Hampton to hit the Wildcats with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter, which stretched its lead to 23, at 30-7, with just under five minutes to play. East Hampton led 37-15 when the quarter ended.
Led by Danielle Adams, who had six points in the final quarter, the Bellringers iced it with seven straight points over the first four minutes of the quarter, stretching their lead to 29 at 44-15.
“We played very well in stretches tonight, and we did a good job rebounding,” Russell said. “I really couldn’t be more proud of these girls and the way they played tonight.
Bugbee, of course, had a slightly different perspective on the game. Noting that the Wildcats will soon begin play in the CIAC tournament, he said he is hoping the team will learn at least one lesson from this loss.
“Tonight’s game was a perfect example of what happens if you don’t come out and play hard,” he said. “If you don’t come to play you are going to lose.”
OLD LYME (21)
Grace Lathrop 0 0 0, Taylor Thompson 1 0 2, Samantha Gray 2 0 4, Fiona Fredriks 1 0 2, Ellie Zrenda 1 0 2, Emily DeRoehn 2 1 5, Aleix Fenton 0 0 0, Megan Loflin 3 0 6, Alison Ward 0 0 0. Totals: 10 1 21.
EAST HAMPTON (46)
Maggie Donohue 0 0 0, Meryl Curtin 2 0 6, Angela Mercaldi 1 6 8, Jordan Murphy 0 0 0, Madison Yorker 0 1 1, Mya Field 7 4 18, Hannah Barrientos 3 1 7, Danielle Adams 3 0 6. Totals: 16 12 46.
Score By Quarters
OL 4 3 8 6—21
EH 12 10 15 9—46
3-Pointers: EH—Curtin 2.
Records: East Hampton 21-1, Old Lyme 14-8.