Published February 07. 2014 4:00AM
New London - The last game these teams played this season was decided by a 3-pointer at the final buzzer, courtesy of New London High School's Seth Lake.
So perhaps another oddity, a 55-point combined quarter by Waterford and New London - eight minutes with seemingly every shot hitting the bottom of the net from every corner of the floor - was in order.
"It was exciting, back-and-forth with 3-pointers," Lake said. "We knew we had to come out stronger than we did against them the last time because they played just as well as they did before."
New London won the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division boys' basketball game at Conway Gymnasium 84-76 on Thursday night, but not before Waterford came from down 19 points in the first half to take the lead on three different occasions in the third quarter.
The Lancers, vying for a share of first place in the Medium Division, outscored New London 33-22 in the third quarter, leading for the first time in the game with 1 minute, 35 seconds to go in the third on a pair of free throws by Donny Craig, who was a big part of the scoring frenzy.
New London had the last say in the third quarter, however, getting a 3-pointer by Nabate Metts to lead 65-63, and turned the defensive pressure back up a notch in the fourth quarter, in addition to getting nine points from Lake down the stretch.
Lake finished with 23 points (four 3-pointers), Metts 19 points and Josh Maynard 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Whalers, who are 13-1 overall, 7-0 in the Medium Division with the season sweep of the Lancers. Waterford, led by 32 from Craig, is 10-5, 5-2.
New London played with a higher energy level than it did in its last game, a 68-54 victory over Plainfield, according to coach Craig Parker.
"It's nice to see your team have the intensity and jump out to a lead. And it's nice to see them come back and still play well after being down," Parker said.
New London, which also got 13 points from Collin Sawyer, 11 rebounds from C.J. Parker and finished with 10 3-point field goals, led 19-4 after the first quarter. Metts scored nine points in the first quarter, including two layups off of steals and a 3-pointer.
The Whalers led 41-22 in the second quarter after a 3-pointer by Maynard and a drive to the basket by Sawyer with 1:56 to play. But Waterford's 8-2 run to close the half narrowed the gap to 43-30 at the break, the last six points of the half by Craig.
"You could see the shift in the momentum of the game toward the latter part of the second quarter," Parker said. "They got some steals and had some easy buckets. Even though we were up 13, you could feel it change. But we stayed tough. We were able to weather the storm."
After Craig put Waterford ahead for the first time, the lead flip-flopped back-and-forth, as Lake hit a 3 for New London, followed by 3s from Waterford's Kevin Johnson, Lake, Waterford's Isaiah Jones and New London's Metts.
"The kids showed guts," Waterford coach Greg Gwudz said. "We were not happy with our intensity in the first half. ... Out of halftime our goal was to switch defenses almost every trip down to force them into quick decisions.
"We created some turnovers and quick shots and that led to more offense for us. We played at a different speed and with more confidence in the third."
Waterford didn't score for the first 3:22 of the fourth quarter, however, as New London scored nine straight points to regain control, six points by Lake.
The closest the Lancers would get from there is five points, 78-73, after Craig hit both ends of a one-and-one with 1:23 to play. New London went 8-for-10 from the foul line down the stretch.
"We know we have guys that can hit shots," Lake said. "Tonight our defense and our offense performed. It was a big win. There was a lot of energy coming into this game."
Connor Lewis added 12 points for Waterford, Johnson 11 and Schneider Jean-Pierre 10.