Wildcats’ Time To Shine As Champions Of The Shoreline

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Pictured: Old Lyme players, including Brady Sheffield (center) and Aedan Using (33, right) finally get their hands on the Shoreline trophy after the program was conference runner-up in its last four trips to the final.

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

MADISON – Old Lyme boys basketball coach Kirk Kaczor and his counterpart, Morgan’s Frank Rossi, both only needed two words and four syllables to analyze Thursday night’s 72-50 Old Lyme victory in the championship game of the 2020 Shoreline Conference tournament: Aedan Using.

Using, Old Lyme’s senior center and this season’s Shoreline Player of the Year, scored 29 points, including nine in a decisive 22-4 run over the first five minutes of the third quarter to turn a 29-29 halftime tie into a 22-point Wildcat victory. The Shoreline title was the program’s first since 2011

“When he plays like he did tonight, there’s just nobody in this league that has an answer for him,” Rossi said from the floor of the Polson Middle School gym, shortly after the final buzzer. “Tonight he played very much like the league’s best player, which he definitely is.”

Using, who also piled up a boatload of rebounds and assists on the night, said his 20-point second half performance was the end result of his team’s desire to come out of the locker room and play with more focus and intensity.

“We knew they (Morgan) weren’t going to just roll over for us. We knew we had to come out in the second half and play with more intensity,” he said.

Aedan Using scores over Morgan’s Alex Fratamico in the second half of the Shoreline Conference tournament championship game. Using had a game-high 29 points.

He added that the painful memory of last year’s overtime loss to Cromwell in the conference final in the same gym also helped his team regroup and refocus at halftime. Old Lyme was 0-4 in its previous four trips to the final.

“That loss was just about the worse feeling I’ve ever had,” Using said. “I knew that my team needed me to step up and play better in order to avoid another long bus ride home. I knew they were counting on me to play better in the second half.”

Using’s 29-point effort led all scorers, while teammate and fellow senior Ray Doll poured in 17 points. Sophomore Alexander Fratamico led the Morgan attack with 18 points while Zach Johnson finished with 9.

With the game tied at 29, Using began the game-clinching, third-quarter run with a put-back to give the Wildcats a lead they would never relinquish. Doll followed up a few seconds later with a steal that led to a driving layup and Using scored from underneath again to make it 35-29.

Old Lyme coach Kirk Kaczor (left) and Morgan’s Frank Rossi meet after the final horn Thursday. Their teams are in the CIAC Division V tourney, which starts next week.

From there, Ty Dean hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and point guard Brady Sheffield converted a three-point play, sandwiched around a pair of Fratamico free throws, to stretch the Wildcats’ lead to 10 at 41-31. When the dust finally cleared, Old Lyme (22-1) had outscored the Huskies 27-12 in the third quarter to take a 56-41 lead into the final eight minutes of play.

“Morgan’s a tough team and we needed to regroup at halftime,” Kaczor said. “We also needed to play better on defense.

“Our five senior starters really came out smoking in the third quarter, they were really fired up. And, of course, our player of the year played like the player of the year.”

Morgan (15-8) broke out of the starting gate early as buckets by Connor Duffy and Fratamico gave the Huskies an early 4-1 lead. Doll’s three-point play and a long 3-pointer by Using shot the Wildcats back into the lead at 7-4 three minutes into the game, but four points by Johnson and a long 3 by Jason Cohen helped the Huskies outscore Old Lyme 11-6 over the balance of the quarter to grab a 15-14 lead after the first eight minutes.

Cohen’s jumper early in the second quarter stretched the Huskies’ lead to three, at 17-14, before six points by Using and four by Doll keyed a 14-3 Wildcat spurt that left them sitting on a 28-20 lead with three and a half minutes left in the half.

From there, the Huskies rallied back behind four points from Rob Zirlis and three from Fratamico to close the half on a 9-1 run, knotting the game at 29 at halftime.

Old Lyme coach Kirk Kaczor, left, on the second-half performance of senior center Aedan Using (33): “Our player of the year played like the player of the year.”

Following the third-quarter uprising that gave the Wildcats a 15-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Using iced the championship by scoring 11 straight Old Lyme points, keying an 11-7 run over the quarter’s first five minutes to stretch the lead to 19, 67-48.

“I think the bus ride home this year is going to be a lot better,” Using said.

Both teams will play on in the CIAC Division V tournament.

No. 9 seed Morgan has a home game Monday night (6:30pm tip) against Parish Hill, while top seed Old Lyme has earned a first-round bye and will play the winner of Monday’s Stafford-Kaynor Tech first round game on Wednesday night at home.

“I feel this is just the beginning of what will be a very strong era for Morgan basketball,” said Rossi, whose starting five Thursday were underclassmen. “This team learned a lot this year, they gained a lot of experience and a lot of exposure. I think you’ll be hearing quite a bit from us in the future.”

That future begins Monday for the Huskies and Wednesday for Old Lyme, the 2019-20 SLC champs.

Box Score

MORGAN (50)
Zach Johnson 3 3-5 9, Jason Cohen 3 0-0 8, Alex Fratamico 6 6-7 18, Rob Zirlis 3 0-0 6, Connor Duffy 2 0-0 4, Drew Nye 1 2-2 5, Jon Fiorillo 0 0-0 0, Cam Carlson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 11-14 50.

OLD LYME (72)
Ty Dean 2 0-0 5, Brady Sheffield 2 0-2 4, Ray Doll 7 2-3 17, Aedan Using 12 3-3 29, Jared Ritchie 2 3-6 7, Jacob Ritchie 2 0-0 6, Frank Sablone 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 8-14 72.

Score By Quarters
M  15 14 12 9—50
OL 14 15 27 16—72

3-Pointers: M—Cohen 2, Nye 1; OL—Using 2, Jacob Ritchie 2, Dean 1, Doll 1.