'Closing lineup' lifts Old Lyme into Division V quarterfinals

Mar. 8—OLD LYME — Pressure? Ha. How could there be pressure on Brady Sheffield, the coach not all that much older than his players?

All Sheffield faced Thursday night coaching his first state tournament game was a full house in his home gym at Old Lyme, a stubborn opponent, a mere one-point lead with under two minutes remaining and the reward of a trip to the state quarterfinals.

"The closing lineup we had out there," a relieved Sheffield said later, "stepped up huge."

Indeed. The No. 3 Wildcats closed the game on an 8-0 run to survive No. 14 Grasso Tech, 53-44. Old Lyme (17-6) advances to Monday's CIAC Division V quarterfinals to face No. 6 Somers in Old Lyme at 7 p.m.

Leland Hine, a member of the closing lineup, converted a three-point play with 1:48 left, giving his team a 48-44 lead. From there, Charles Sahadi, Elias Sahadi and Eddie Fiske combined to make five of six free throws to seal it.

"We had to grind it out," said Sheffield, a player on the last team from Old Lyme to make the state tournament. "It wasn't the best game we played all year. We can play better and we'll need to."

Nick Stavesky led the Eagles (11-11) with 17 points. Stavesky capped a 9-1 run for Grasso in the fourth quarter by scoring and getting fouled — and could have tied the game with a free throw. But his miss was typical of the night for Grasso, which missed 12 of its 14 free throw attempts.

"Grasso took us out of our game," Sheffield said. "It's not the type of tempo we want to play."

Old Lyme trailed by as many as six early until Sheffield inserted Fiske, a freshman playing in his first state tournament game. Fiske's appearance came in conjunction with Grasso's 7-minute scoring drought that turned a six-point lead into an eight-point deficit.

Grasso used a late run in the first half to close it to 22-19 at halftime. Old Lyme led 42-35 in the fourth quarter before the Eagles' 9-1 run brought them within a point.

Fiske led Old Lyme with 20 points and Hine had 14.

"It was electric," Fiske said of the atmosphere.

And now the Wildcats get a few days before Somers, which eliminated ECC Division II Tournament semifinalist Tourtellotte on Thursday.

"Somers is a great team," Sheffield said. "We've seen them quite a few times. They move the ball really well."