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Montville — Derek Wainwright watched his team beat the best team in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division by 22 points Tuesday night.
The Montville High School girls' basketball team, coached by Wainwright, postponed Ledyard's championship-clinching party with a 53-31 victory, outrebounding the bigger Colonels 25-9 and stifling their offense with a two-three zone.
Montville point guard Meghan Autencio broke Ledyard's press like she was driving a bulldozer. Teammate Cassidy Bundy, the center, finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, seven steals and four blocked shots.
But then there was Wainwright, looking ashen after the game.
"I walked into the locker room and I said, 'I'm so proud of you girls, but I'm so sad right now,'" Wainwright said. "And the girls said the same thing. We didn't take care of what we needed to."
What Wainright was referring to was a Medium Division loss last Friday night against Stonington, 49-41, which cost the Indians. Had Montville (12-5, 6-2) won that game, it would now be tied with Ledyard (14-3, 7-1) atop the Medium Division.
Montville led Stonington 26-19 at halftime before being outscored 21-2 in the third quarter.
Wainwright couldn't help but wonder what if?
"We lost a bad game Friday night. I obviously didn't do a good job as a coach Friday night," Wainright said. "This game's bittersweet. Tonight, I think we showed we could play with anybody in this league."
Ledyard can still clinch the division title, its first since 1992, by winning games Thursday against Waterford and next Tuesday against Windham.
But with a chance to end all suspense with a win Tuesday, the Colonels, who all season have had arguably the most depth in the entire ECC, couldn't put things together offensively.
"I don't think it was pressure. They just outplayed us. They beat us up inside and out," Ledyard coach Adam Baber said. "As soon as we got behind, we played like it was a 15-20 point deficit and we turned it into a 15-20 point deficit."
Montville led 9-6 after the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Autencio. The Indians then outscored Ledyard 15-5 in the second quarter, including an offensive rebound by Bundy off her own miss and a basket by Jamie Hill off the dribble to end the half with a 24-11 lead.
It was 35-16 in the third quarter when Ledyard scored 10 straight points to pull within nine, but as soon as Olivia DelGrosso hit her second 3-pointer of the run, Bundy answered on the next trip down the floor for Montville.
Up 11, Montville reeled off the next 14 points before DelGrosso's game-ending 3.
"It's really important. We've talked about it all year long," Baber said of the possibility of Ledyard ending its drought in the way of ECC banners. "We want this. We don't want to tie it."
Hill had 13 points for Montville, Kiah Strickland 12 points and Autencio 11 points and seven assists. The Indians were missing senior forward Rachael Orbe due to injury.
DelGrosso had 11 points for Ledyard, while Ari Fustini (7), Michelle Klinikowski (7) and Kylie Fustini (6) were the only other players to score.
"We played kind of lethargic the last game. We needed to play with intensity," Montville's Bundy said. "No matter what was on the line, we wanted to come out and play good defense.
" ... It's definitely a statement. I'm proud of my girls. It has a lot to do with confidence. We just wanted to come out here and have fun and fight."