Published December 19. 2013 4:00AM Updated December 19. 2013 7:25AM
Waterford - There might have been a hint of a smirk on Greg Gwudz's face Wednesday night, which is usually what happens to a coach whose sophomores are in high-speed pursuit of playing time.
And on a night with the neighboring rival in town, the student section in full throat, injuries to a pair of key seniors and a first-half scoring disorder, the sophomores of Waterford High School took to the pressure calmer than a lagoon.
Kevin Johnson (all 5-foot-3 of him) and classmate Mike Gianakos scored 14 points apiece and the Lancers gradually pulled away from East Lyme 53-39 in the season opener at the soon-to-be dedicated Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse.
Johnson made four 3-pointers, three in the second half, while Gianakos handled the ball in the absence of starter Donny Craig, who missed the game with an injury.
"I really never thought Kevin would get 14. That's crazy," junior Connor Lewis said. "He's one of my best friends, too. I get really pumped for him. We have some depth and we play hard. That's the main thing. Mike, Kevin and Jake (sophomore Jake Mangual) played great for us."
Lewis wasn't so bad either with 12 points and five blocks.
Waterford was missing Craig and fellow senior Danny Martin, the leading returning scorer and 3-point shooter from last season, respectively.
"That's all-league guard (Craig) maybe a second-team all league kid in Martin," East Lyme coach Jim Cunningham said. "When you see a few starters out, you think you're in an advantageous spot. We didn't take advantage."
Waterford forced 13 turnovers in the second half and erased an 18-14 deficit at halftime.
"The thing we see here is the kids are getting the message," Gwudz said. "As sophomores, if you can play, you are going to play. And they go after it in practice. Our leading scorers tonight were 10th graders who hadn't played a lot. That's nice to see."
Johnson hit his third 3-pointer with six minutes left, giving the Lancers a 37-31 lead. Waterford, which trailed by four into the third period, led by no fewer than five the rest of the game.
Sophomore Christian Brown led East Lyme with 12 points.
"If you can hold a team to five points in (the first) quarter and 14 in (the first) half, you have something there," Waterfordnningham said. "We have to trust in our offense a little more, share the ball and understand what the other team wants to do when they're trying to speed you up."