UNCASVILLE — Yes, point guard Mikey Buscetto graduated after helping Waterford win the Division III state championship last March, a tough loss to endure.
But guard J.J. Brennan took over the controls from the maestro Buscetto and the program hasn’t missed a beat.
The top-seeded Lancers won its second straight Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship 65-60 over No. 3 seed Norwich Free Academy Tuesday night.
“Last year, Mikey told me, ‘Just have confidence,’ and I brought it back for this year. I have a lot of confidence,” Brennan said.
It was also the second straight title won by the Lancers (22-1), the fifth-ranked team in the latest GameTimeCT poll, at the Mohegan Sun Arena, first the Division III championship game, then this title before a total attendance of 3.046 for the two ECC finals.
This was the first time the games were held at the arena.
— ECC Athletics (@GoECCAthletics) February 27, 2019
“It’s a privilege to play in this arena, an absolute privilege,” Waterford coach Bill Bassett said. “But at the.end of the day, someone had to win the game and they have understand that there is a job to be done and execute what we need to do (to win).”
All told, it is 37 victories in the last 38 games for Waterford, the only loss coming in overtime last month at East Lyme when Dev Ostrowski poured in 37 points.
Brennan earned tournament MVP honors with a game-high 25 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter when NFA (16-7) was mounting a comeback. A 17-point deficit late in the third quarter was down to three.
Brennan made all six free throws he took in the final 96 seconds to seal the victory.
— Peter Huoppi (@phuoppi) February 27, 2019
“JJ loves the big stage and he did a great job shooting the basketball and actually really being composed with the basketball, making good decisions,” Bassett said.
Said Brennan: “This year, I haven’t been good at it (hitting free throws). … It was a close game so I needed to start doing my thing, I needed to start scoring and that’s what I did.”
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) February 27, 2019
Also in one sequence, Brennan avoided getting fouled by several Wildcats when they were trying to put him on the line. He made a pass that led to a blown layup, but he was able to hit the floor, gain possession and called for timeout with 19.5 seconds left and Waterford leading 61-57.
Then, instead of pulling the ball out, he zipped a pass cross-court from out of bounds to Liam Spellman (15 points, 15 rebounds) for the easy layup.
“I was going to kick it out, but Liam was wide open so I hit him for the easy bucket,” Brennan said.
Nolan Molkenthin and Mason Jackson both scored 14 points to lead the Wildcats.
“Last year, I was blessed with an unbelievably gifted point guard,” Bassett said. “This year, I have five very dangerous players. If those guys play their roles the right way and the guys off the bench play their roles the right way, we are a hard team to stop.”