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Mohegan - The improbable run for the Bacon Academy girls' basketball team ended with a remarkable run Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The No. 3 Bobcats scored the last 12 points of the CIAC Class L tournament final, shocking No. 1 E.O. Smith of Storrs 38-34.
"At the start of the season I didn't think that we would win the Class L tournament,'' Bacon coach Dave Shea said. "I didn't even think that a couple of weeks ago.''
Bacon (22-3) didn't get its first lead until there were 15 seconds left in the first half, only scored three points in the third quarter and trailed 34-26 with only 5:49 left in the fourth quarter. So how did this happen?
"I've been telling people it's not the best team that wins," E.O. Smith coach Kirk Murad said. "It's the team that plays the best. And Bacon played the best today.''
Especially in the final five minutes.
E.O. Smith (25-2) led 34-26 after two free throws by Murphy Murad with 5:49 left. Nobody could have figured the Panthers' day was over offensively at that point.
Then Bacon juniors Sarah Rogers and Taylor McLaughlin scored what may become known in program lore as Bacon's Dozen.
Layup by Rogers at 5:34, 34-28.
Jumper by McLaughlin at 5:00, 34-30.
Jumper by McLaughlin at 3:26, 34-32.
With 2:11 left, Bacon got even. Rogers put back a McLaughlin miss to make it 34-34 and got the Bacon fans out of their seats.
McLaughlin whipped the crowd into a frenzy even further when she picked off an E.O. Smith pass and took it the length of the court for a layup and the lead with 57 seconds left.
Then with 23 seconds left McLaughlin blocked her third shot of the game, Rogers got the rebound and was fouled.
"I couldn't believe I got that block,'' said McLaughlin, who finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five steals.
Rogers stood at the free throw line, a place Bacon had been 2-for-10, shooting a one-and-one. She swished them both.
"I was not thinking anything,'' Rogers said. "I was shaking so much.''
Rogers finished with nine points and 14 rebounds, 11 of which were defensive. But her biggest contribution came in holding 6-foot-2 E.O. Smith center Morgan Olander to three points.
Bacon trailed 24-22 at halftime, staying in the game by outrebounding the taller Panthers 22-15 in the first half. Bacon finished with a 39-33 edge on the boards.
"A lot of rebounding is determination, and wanting it more,'' Shea said.
The third quarter was one neither team will want to watch over again. E.O. Smith outscored Bacon 5-3. For its part, Bacon went 1 of 6 from the floor and turned the ball over eight times.
"In the third quarter we absolutely stunk,'' Shea said. "I told them they were getting lazy.''
Still, when Bacon's Carlee Putnam drained a 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the third quarter, it cut E.O. Smith's lead to 29-25 after three. Putnam finished with 10 points and held Smith's Ashley Forand, who made 60 3-pointers this season, to three points on 1-for-6 shooting from behind the line.
Murad scored 10 and Olander had seven rebounds and nine blocked shots. But the Panthers shot 22 percent from the floor (11 of 50), 12 percent (3 of 25) in the second half.
"For us to play defense the way we did today exceeded all standards,'' Putnam said.
Kirk Murad, whose team lost in the Class L final for the second straight year, knows shooting was the villain.
"We didn't want to slow it down,'' Murad said. "But we weren't making enough shots to get in their faces.''
Shea, coaching his 40th season at Bacon, won his third state title and earned win No. 660.
He was an all-state basketball player at Bacon in 1952. He won 329 games coaching the boys from 1962-85, including the Class S title in 1981. He's won 331 games coaching the girls, going 2-1 in state finals and winning the Class M title in 2009.
"You never really expect to win a state championship,'' Shea said. "But they're all good.''