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New London — This might be the year the sheriff around here finally has a limp. Maybe this is the year the rest of the Eastern Connecticut Conference views New London High School as "susceptible" before "unbeatable."
"But," New London senior Keith Porter said Friday night, "they still have to put up with me."
Porter could have pointed to the scorebook as the best evidence. His 36 points and 20 rebounds helped the Whalers win their fourth straight game, 71-65 over LaSalle Academy of Rhode Island, a school New London coach Craig Parker said could win the ECC this season.
"It's all new," Porter said, alluding to playing with four new starters. "It's what I trained for all summer. I knew the situation. Being around the class of 2012 since I was 9, I knew them. I knew their spots on the floor and what they were going to do. This is learning all over again."
Porter might have learned he could rely on some new teammates Friday night. Sophomore DeAnte Bruton (16 points) and Dom Benson (nine points in the second half) helped the Whalers (4-1) rally from a seven-point deficit.
"We played with a little bit more intensity in the second half and adjusted better against their box and one (on Porter)," Parker said. "Dom and DeAnte are both nice basketball players. They certainly gave us a lift. Collin (Sawyer) didn't shoot the ball as well tonight, so we went with Dom and he did a nice job. DeAnte certainly held his own out there for a sophomore."
Bruton hit a three-pointer with 6:52 remaining to give New London a 10-point lead. But the Whalers missed seven of 10 free throws in the final 1:32, keeping LaSalle (2-2) in the game.
LaSalle got as close as three with 42 seconds left.
But the Whalers forced a turnover on the next possession.
"Practice," Porter said, responding to a question about how to improve free throw shooting. "That was ridiculous."
The Whalers played most of the game without starter Seth Lake, who left the game early with a broken nose.
New London's nonleague schedule doesn't get any easier Wednesday with Wilbur Cross of New Haven coming to Conway Gymnasium.
"I haven't really thought about what rest of the league thinks about us," Parker said. "But I would think with the talent we've had here, teams might think now that they can get us, and rightfully so. But we're going to play hard every night. If we go down, we're going down fighting."