WATERFORD — Southington got a taste of big-time high school basketball Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the CIAC Division III Tournament. The Blue Knights accepted the challenge, albeit in a losing effort.
In front of a raucous Waterford crowd and with the game being streamed live on Facebook and You Tube, Southington fell to Waterford 80-70.
The seventh-seeded Blue Knights gave No. 2 seed Waterford all it wanted. Southington got within within 71-67 on Colin Burdette’s driving layup and free throw with 1:58 to play. But with Jeremy Mecier already gone with five fouls, Andrew Lohneiss fouled out with 1:27 to play, all but ending Southington’s comeback bid.
Lohneiss finished his Southington career with 14 points, giving him 412 on the season. Fellow senior Mecier added 10 points.
Burdette, a junior, led Southington with 19 points. His 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play in the game got the Blue Knights within 80-70.
Southington’s season came to a close at 17-8. Waterford improved to 23-2 and advances to Tuesday’s semifinals to face No. 3 Prince Tech.
Against Southington, Waterford regained momentum after Mikey Buscetto re-entered the game in the fourth quarter after exiting late in the third after hard foul. Buscetto, who became Waterford’s all-time leading scorer with a game-high 28 points, sparked the Lancers with just two free throws as Waterford went back up 70-59 with 5:18 to play.
Waterford tried to take control of the game in the third quarter, opening up a 14-point lead. A pair of Cam Clynes’ 3-pointers and tough driving layup got Southington within 60-54 after three quarters.
A frenetic first half saw both teams run up and down the court. The pace of play, however, favored Waterford, which pushed the ball at every opportunity.
The first quarter ended 17-17, as Southington kept itself even with the Lancers by grabbing offensive rebounds and getting most of the 50-50 balls.
In the second quarter, Waterford took a seven-point lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Trevor Yeomans and Buscetto. Southington cut the Waterford lead to a point on more hustle plays – an Adam Hunter putback layup and driving layup by Colin Burdette.
Waterford took a 37-31 lead into halftime when Jay Jay Brennan hit a buzzer 3-pointer.
It was the second game in 24 hours for both teams after the CIAC Tournament’s second round was delayed two days because of last week’s nor’easter. Southington, which won its first CIAC Tournament game since 2011 by beating Berlin in OT on Monday night, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 64-48 win Friday night over North Haven. Waterford beat Farmington 62-47 in Friday’s second round after receiving a bye in the first round.
The Lancers, winners of 13 straight, haven’t lost since Jan. 23. They were ranked as high as No. 8 in the state before losing twice in the span of a week during the regular season.
The Lancers opened the postseason winning the ECC Division I Tournament and avenging both of their regular-season losses along the way. Waterford beat New London and then topped East Lyme 69-53 in the title game.