St. Bernard ousted by No. 1 Coginchaug girls

Durham - St. Bernard was the underdog Friday night, usually is, actually, with a big game on the line.

But when the Saints can slow things down a little, the way they did in a three-point loss to top-seeded Plainfield in the quarterfinals of Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament, they give themselves a chance to win.

Except this top seed, Coginchaug of Durham, was one of the most talented teams St. Bernard has faced.

And the Blue Devils were also hungry, coming off a loss to Cromwell in the Shoreline Conference title game.

After a bye in the first round of the Class S state girls' basketball tournament, Coginchaug ran and pressed its way to a 56-25 victory over No. 16 St. Bernard in a second-round game, with Coginchaug still try to sneak in one more basket before the buzzer.

"We didn't even try to slow it down. I mean, we did. But we didn't do a very good job of it," St. Bernard coach Mike Nystrom said. "We called a timeout in the second quarter when things were getting away from us and said, 'Run flex. Take time off the clock.' We went two passes, shot. Two or three passes, shot.

"It was a combination of they're better than us and we played terrible. It didn't have to be like that."

Kayla Paris scored 11 points in her final career game for St. Bernard (15-9), scoring seven in the first quarter when the Saints trailed just 11-10 before Coginchaug's Sam Mancinelli made a shot at the buzzer to put the Blue Devils in the lead 13-10. Paris hit a 3-pointer and spun and hit a shot off the dribble to pull her team to within that 11-10 margin.

That was the pace St. Bernard would have liked, but not the one that transpired in the second quarter as Coginchaug outscored the Saints 17-2. The Blue Devils went from up 19-12 to creating a 36-12 gap with a run that crossed over from the second quarter into the third.

Lauren Esposito led Coginchaug (22-2) with 16 points and Audrey Biesak had 10. The Blue Devils moved on to the quarterfinals to meet No. 9 Hyde next Thursday, also in Durham.

Nystrom said in watching Coginchaug's Shoreline loss to Cromwell, he was rooting wholeheartedly for Coginchaug.

"We were hoping they would win," Nystrom said. "They're going to be tough to play when you lose like that. I knew they were going to be ready. You just have to hope they don't play their best."

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