Pictured: East Hampton’s Mya Field gets the pass off as Old Lyme defenders Emily DeRoehn (20), Ellie Zrenda (15) and Sam Gray converge.
By Paul Augeri
EAST HAMPTON – Old Lyme got another extra-strength dose of the smart, disciplined and adaptable style of basketball that East Hampton has played for a lot of years now. This one also didn’t go down well for the Wildcats.
“They are definitely a very good team, and for us it takes just a lot of energy to play them,” Old Lyme senior Emily DeRoehn said Wednesday night. “We put so much energy into it in the beginning that we didn’t have a whole lot at the end. We still tried our hardest for as long as we could and we gave all we had.”
The top-seeded Bellringers created more opportunities at critical junctures Wednesday night. In the final 90 seconds, they stepped on the gas and won a return trip to the Shoreline Conference tournament championship game with a 40-33 semifinal victory over the fourth-seeded Wildcats.
The defending champions (14-0) have won a school-record 27 straight games and 37 of 38 since last season. East Hampton will host No. 2 Morgan – a 50-37 winner over No. 3 Cromwell — in a rematch of last year’s final on Friday at 5pm.
“We’re very excited to be able to see them again this season,” said Bellringers senior Mya Field, who slashed her way to a game-high 14 points.
East Hampton trailed 19-16 in the third quarter before scoring 10 unanswered points over the final 3:24 of the period to re-establish control of the game.
The Bellringers’ defense held Old Lyme to four points in the period, and when Field scored on a feed from Jackie Russell in the first minute of the fourth for their largest lead (28-19) of the night, all signs pointed to East Hampton slowing it down, taking time of the clock and forcing the visitors to foul.
“Our offense wasn’t there for us in the first half,” Field said. “We had 16, they had 15, thank God. We decided as a team, you know what, holding it isn’t going to work against them. Old Lyme is a team that can steal it and go lay it in. We didn’t need that tonight. Tonight, we needed points.”
The Wildcats, still down eight at 32-24 with 2:24 left, caught a second wind. DeRoehn, who led Old Lyme with 10 points, put back an offensive rebound and Ali Kyle using the glass to convert a 3-point shot, making it a 32-29 game with 1:57 left.
After East Hampton’s Danielle Adams hit both ends of a one-and-one, Old Lyme missed a shot and a second-chance attempt on its next possession. Wildcats coach Don Bugbee feared the worst.
“A team like East Hampton, they have the ball, they’ve got it forever and you can’t get it back,” he said.
But East Hampton did give it back. After breaking Old Lyme’s full-court pressure, Kyle stole the ball near midcourt and rushed in for a layup to make it a 34-31 game with 1:07 to go.
East Hampton inbounded and again beat the press, and senior Hannah Barrientos took advantage of a clear path to the basket for an easy bucket.
DeRoehn hit two free throws on Old Lyme’s next trip to cut the deficit to 36-33. But once again, Barrientos beat the Wildcats back down the floor for another layup with 22 seconds left, and after a Wildcats turnover, Meryl Curtin put back the hard-charging Barrientos’ miss underneath with 9 seconds left for their seven-point margin of victory.
“In the fourth quarter we really showed what we’re able to do in those game situations. Our experience really came out,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “I was really pleased with the way the second half progressed. “We tend to put a run on you if we can create some offense off of our defense.
“I was really proud of the grit, and I really like how, even though we’re near the end, we continue to progress defensively. We’re really getting a feel for how we’re helping and helping the helper, and loading up on the ball side and making (teams) work hard to get (scores).”
Old Lyme’s entire starting five – DeRoehn, Emma McCulloch, Ellie Zrenda, Sam Gray and Grace Lathrop – will graduate without beating the Bellringers. East Hampton has won nine straight since the players entered the program as freshmen.
“We have a lot of respect for Old Lyme,” Russell said. “They have five really tough seniors who played their last game tonight. We’ve had some good battles over the years. Don does a great job, he’s one of the guys I respect the most in the business.”
Meanwhile, Field, Barrientos, Adams and Curtin kept their careers going for one final game, and they’ll also try to win another Shoreline title for fellow senior Angela Mercaldi. The All-State and All-Shoreline First Team performer suffered a season-ending ACL injury before the Shoreline tournament.
“They’re still connected and supporting each other,” Russell said, “and they also realize they can’t spend any of their energy looking over at the bench because she’s not coming in. They know they’ve got to get it done.”
OLD LYME (10-4)
Grace Lathrop 1 0 2, Sam Gray 0 3 3, Ellie Zrenda 2 0 4, Emily DeRoehn 4 2 10, Ali Kyle 2 0 5, Alexis Fenton 0 0 0, Megan Loflin 2 0 4, Emma McCulloch 2 1 5. Totals: 13 6 33.
EAST HAMPTON (14-0)
Meryl Curtin 2 3 8, Jackie Russell 1 1 3, Jordan Murphy 0 0 0, Madison Yorker 1 0 2, Mya Field 5 4 14, Hannah Barrientos 3 0 6, Danielle Adams 2 2 7. Totals: 14 10 40.
Score By Quarters
OL 8 7 4 14—33
EH 12 4 10 14—40
3-Pointers: OL—Kyle 1; EH—Curtin 1, Adams 1.
No. 2 Morgan 50, No. 3 Cromwell 37
Marykate Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Jessica Grodzicki 2 0-2 5, Nevaeh Clark 6 0-2 12, Monica Dewey 2 0-2 4, Likhita Chanda 2 0-0 5, Adela Cecunjanin 4 0-0 9. Totals: 17 0-6 37.
Catie Donadio 4 12-14 21, Caeley Ayer 5 0-0 12, Katie Martin 4 0-0 8, Sofie Passante 0 0-0 0, Alex Kelly 3 0-0 6, Ava Johnson 1 0-1 3. Totals: 17 12-15 50.
Score By Quarters
C 13 13 7 4–37
M 12 8 11 19–50
3-Pointers: C–Grodzicki 1, Chanda 1, Cecunjanin 1; M–Ayer 2, Johnson 1, Donadio 1.