Boys basketball: Bulldogs fall short of upsetting Vikings

Bunnell’s Elijah Moreland scored three baskets in the final period.— David G. Whitham photos

While it was worth the one hour-plus wait for replacement officials to arrive for the fans that filled the bleachers at East Lyme High on Thursday night, the closing play had the players on both benches holding their breath.

The No. 4 seed Vikings watched a last second-shot by 13th-seeded Bunnell fall short in winning a 70-69 CIAC Division III thriller on Thursday night.

East Lyme (18-3) will host a quarterfinal game on Saturday. Bunnell finishes 12-10.

“It was disappointing, because we thought we were going to win,” Bunnell coach Pat Yerina said. “We had a couple of possessions where we made mistakes and I thought those four-point swings were the difference.

“We knew about Dev Ostrowski (a 6-foot-1 junior) and he made some big shots for them. It came down to (what it always does), the team that executes a couple more plays will win. These kids played hard. Like I said, this is disappointing.”

Khalid Moreland scored 14 points in the Division III second round game.

East Lyme coach Jeff Bernardi agreed: “To have a guy like Dev you are never out of it, he makes something out of nothing. We got some second chance points. Max (Maximus) Edwards is a great player and we had to find an answer.”

Edwards scored 11 points in the first quarter, when Bunnell climbed out of a 10-2 hole to lead 21-18 at the end of the period. The 6-foot-3 junior had assists on baskets from Josh Giannoni and Elijah Alexandre.

Maximus Edwards looks for an opening to the basket.

Ostrowski finished with 34 points (seven above his average), with 11 coming on the final period. After a five-second call on Bunnell, the Vikings took a 68-67 lead on an Ostrowski runner with 34 seconds remaining.

Following a Bulldog miss, a jump ball on the rebound went to the home team, and Ostrowski made a brace of free throws with 16.8 on the clock.

East Lyme, with only four team fouls, used two to bring the time remaining to 4.7, then fouled Edwards on a three-point attempt.

Edwards (18 points) made the first two. The third came off the rim and went out of bounds off a Viking with three ticks left.

With Edwards guarded tightly, the inbounds pass went to Alexandre but his shot for the win fell short.

Alexandre (12 points) had sparked Bunnell to open the final quarter, when East Lyme kept threatening to gain the lead.

A 5-foot-8 junior, Alexandre stopped a fastbreak opportunity to open the stanza.

After Khalid Moreland (14 points) hit a step-back 3-pointer for a 57-55 lead, Alexandre got a run-out basket off an Edwards’ rebound and outlet pass.

Moreland hit the first of two free throws, and Bunnell kept possession on a hustling play by Alexandre.

The next trip down, he got to right spot and put back a missed 3-pointer for a 62-57 Bunnell advantage.

The locals took the margin to 67-61 on a great passing sequence from Edwards to Derrick Gyimah, who fed Alexandre on the opposite block. Gyimah finished with 11 points.

East Lyme’s J.R. Grandenberger, the only senior from either team to start the game, made a key 3-pointer at the two-minute mark.

Bunnell had three giveaways in the next minute, including a charging call that erased a bucket. Ostrowski took advantage with a drive for one hoop and then the floater for the lead.

The teams played an even second period.

Jerrod Leak came off the bench for Bunnell and played an outstanding final four minutes before the half.

A 6-foot junior, Leak had three defensive rebounds and scored three hoops off fine assists from Alexandre, Moreland and Gyimah.

It was 37-31 when the Vikings took advantage of their fourth extended possession in the period on Luke Leonard’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“That rebound of a missed shot and kick-out pass for the three was a really big play,” Bernardi said. “We don’t (always) get a lot of second-chance points, but tonight were able to get to some loose balls. That was a game changer.”

Giannoni made a shot from the short corner in the third quarter, before an Edwards’ steal led to a dunk. He then made a tough drive through traffic for a 44-39 lead.

Moreland’s ability to drive and pull a defender towards him freed Leak for a bucket.

East Lyme, however, answered with another trey from Leonard and it was 54-53 after three.

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