Published March 06. 2012 4:00AM
Ellington - When the game ended, Alyssa Hancock had a fat lip and a couple of fingers on one hand taped together. Adily Martucci, Hancock's teammate on the Waterford High School girls' basketball team, was a mixture of sweat and tears, wearing a red muscle shirt that said "Turn up the heat."
It was third-seeded Ellington which set the tone for Monday night's Class M state quarterfinal game, the theme of which was something like the old standup comedian's line, "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out."
It was Ellington, coached by 1999 Montville graduate Lauren Lovetere-Beeler, that moved on to play No. 2 Tolland in Friday's semifinals, outlasting No. 6 Waterford by a final margin of 59-46.
But if there's one thing you can't say about the game, it's that Ellington had it easy, despite being up 16 at halftime.
"I was definitely pumped about that," Martucci said of her team's comeback, which pulled the Lancers to within three points twice in the second half. "You saw me jump up, screaming. We definitely turned up the heat. At halftime, it was just like, 'I don't want to end our season this way.'"
Ellington led 34-18 at halftime, outscoring the Lancers 17-6 in the first quarter and dominating them on the boards, scoring often on offensive rebounds and being decidedly physical with Martucci and Hancock, Waterford's starting backcourt.
"We definitely wanted to pressure Martucci and Hancock," Lovetere-Beeler said, "and make some of the other girls beat us. Those two are unbelievable players. I've never seen a player jump like Martucci before."
"They outworked us in the first half," Waterford coach Rob Von Achen said. "We outworked them in the second half, but we fell into too big of a hole."
Martucci, headed to play basketball for Division I Quinnipiac next season, and Hancock, the starting the third baseman for the Waterford softball team, did leave a heck of an imprint in the third quarter.
The Lancers (21-5, Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division champions) came out pressing in the second half, causing their own bit of havoc and outscoring Ellington 21-8 in the third quarter to pull within 42-39. Martucci and Hancock, who finished with 15 points each, worked the top of the press furiously, making it difficult for Ellington to get the ball inbounds, never mind up court.
At one point, Martucci hit a 3-point field goal to make it 42-35, with Von Achen helping the referees to signal "three." That was with 2:06 left in the third quarter. On the next play, Hancock engineered a steal and hit a shot (42-37) and by the 1:42 mark, Ellington had turned it over again.
Christine Hadfield finished the quarter on a basket assisted by Martucci, getting the roll to make it 42-39.
"It was definitely interesting for a minute," said Lovetere-Beeler, who played for an AAU basketball team coached by Von Achen growing up. "We were a little shocked they came out in that (press). We expected it, but not then. Then we calmed down a little bit."
Waterford was still within three with 5:46 to go on a basket by Hancock assisted by Martucci, but that's when Ellington senior Kelly Conley, a 5-foot-7 guard, took over the game. Conley went from end to end for a layup to push the lead back to five and after Martucci hit one free throw, Conley hit a pair of foul shots to make it 52-46 with 3:00 left.
In all, Conley scored 14 of her team's 17 points in the fourth quarter, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
"They were a little tight," Von Achen said of his team. "At halftime we talked about bringing everything and they responded. Oh, my, did they respond. … We ran out of gas. They started to make some shots. They started to break the press.
"I'm really proud of them. They played hard against a really good team. I want to see the team that beats them."