Panthers win wild one

Even though they had the lead for almost the entire game, it took a three-point shot in the last ten seconds to secure a win for the Cromwell Panthers over rival Old Lyme in the second round Class S tournament game on March 12.

Cromwell came into the game as the #12 seed but upset the #5 Wildcats by a final score of 54-52.

Both teams had trouble scoring out of the gate – especially Old Lyme, which waited until 5:05 to score their first bucket. Cromwell looked brilliant at times but gave up a few turnovers. For the first half, the Panthers maintained a lead between 8 and 15 points, and went into the interval with a 30-22 lead.

The second half was much of the same, with Old Lyme having trouble finding the net, especially from the perimeter.

The Wildcats tied the game at 50 with just 2:23 to play, and took their only lead with 1:41 to go. With the score 52-51, Cromwell took a timeout with one minute on the clock. When time was back in, the Panthers passed and dribbled until ten second were left, and then Jake Ayotte took a shot from outside the top of the key for three points. Old Lyme dribbled down the court but couldn’t get a clean shot away, and time expired.

Coach John Pinone said the plan was to drain the clock until about ten seconds, leaving time to foul if the shot was missed.

“Just like I drew it up,” he joked. “We were waiting for about ten seconds, so if we got a miss, we could foul or get an offensive rebound or a put-back. We were trying to set a screen on the baseline, but they double-trapped Bryson [Howard], but Jake came off of it and was open. I liked the way he just caught it and shot it. He didn’t think, and there was no hesitation.”

The coach said his squad didn’t play the best game, but was able to keep fighting, despite missing some late points from the line.

“We were not good at the free-throw line,” he said. “We didn’t make it easy for ourselves. We could have had some late points, but we didn’t get any.”

Pinone said he was pleased with the way his team re-focused after a tough loss the last time the two played, in the conference tournament.

“They were more aggressive. They took it to us,” Pinone said. “They beat us to every loose ball. We watched that game film twice [this week]. So we didn’t play smart, but we played harder. Fortunately, we were able to make a shot in the end to win.”

The Panthers are now set to play #4 Bloomfield on March 16. Pinone said his team is familiar with Bloomfield, and they will be a tough opponent.

“We scrimmage them every year,” Pinone said. “They’re very athletic, and can create all kinds of havoc with their pressure. So, we’re going to have to do a better job of protecting the ball, and just be smarter. We can’t give them turnovers, because they can get run-outs and layup baskets in transition.”

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