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Norwich — It has taken New London High School multiple seasons to lose four basketball games. And yet the Whalers walked into Norwich Free Academy on Friday night with four losses in mid-January.
"I told the kids we could be a one loss team right now," coach Craig Parker said.
The coach was a little happier after Friday's 59-47 victory, giving the Whalers their eighth win (8-4 overall) and keeping them alive (3-1) in the Large Division of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
New London plays at first-place Woodstock Academy next Friday night.
"We're starting to play better," senior Keith Porter said.
Porter led the Whalers with 27 points, few of which came easily. NFA's Ryer Caruso chased Porter mercilessly, playing him more physically than most other defenders this season.
"Porter's a handful," NFA coach Neal Curland said. "It's the best job we've done on him. I know part of that is because Kris (former New London great Kris Dunn) isn't on the floor. But New London has No. 5 (Seth Lake) and No. 12 (Collin Sawyer) in the corners waiting for the ball. They knocked down big ones. They made us pay."
Parker started senior Ahmond Gomez for the third straight game. He responded with 11 points, trustworthy ballhandling and a consistent push in tempo. Lake had 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
NFA (6-5, 2-3) continued its season-long shooting disorder. Still, the Wildcats rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third period to get within six. Caruso had an open 3-pointer in the corner that would have cut the lead to three. It did everything on the rim but drop.
"'Juice' (assistant coach Chris Guisti) turns to me and says, 'that's our season,'" Curland said. "It's been really hard for this team to make shots."
Marcus Outlow, in his second game back from an ankle injury, led the Wildcats with 17 points. NFA played without leading scorer Denzel Lancaster, who according to Curland "was not available for the game." Lancaster was averaging 16 points per game.
"It's amazing we can play as good a defense as we play and with that kind of energy when we're not making shots," Curland said. "When you make shots, kids play with a lot more energy. Their motors get revved up. When you don't, kids tend to get deflated. I didn't see any deflation tonight."
The Whalers led by nine at halftime and extended the lead to as many as 15 in the second half.
"I didn't really know what we were earlier in the year," Porter said. "A whole new team. But we're playing better and starting to realize where each other will be on the floor."