Wildcats roar into the final

Montville - Marcus Outlow had been putting on a show during Thursday's Eastern Connecticut Conference semifinal, making a variety of shots for Norwich Free Academy.

Outlow put on a different kind of show with less than four minutes left in the game and the Wildcats tied with Ledyard. He was muttering to himself and rolling his eyes after missing the first two of his four free throws .

"Oh, my God," Outlow said. "I should've knocked them down, but I just tried to stay focused and tell myself that I'm the only one in the gym; like I'm practicing."

Outlow continued to mumble to himself as he made his next two free throws as fifth-seeded NFA went on to stun top-seeded Ledyard, 57-49, at the St. Bernard School.

The Wildcats will play No. 3 New London for the title tonight at the same site (7 p.m.). St. Bernard athletic director Brendan Case said that doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

NFA and the Whalers split their two regular season meetings.

Outlow scored a game-high 32 with four steals for the Wildcats (15-8). Denzel Lancaster added four blocks.

Darnay Gray had 20 points for the Colonels (19-3) and Thomas Whipple added 13 points.

The game was tied at 46 when two Ledyard players trapped Outlow near their bench.

Outlow fell down, and the Colonels were called for a foul during a scramble for the ball. Ledyard's John Rainey was then hit with a technical foul to give Outlow four free throws.

"I couldn't believe the call because I thought either it was a jump ball or a travel because the two guys had him tied up," Colonels coach Dave Cornish said. "I went up to the official and asked, 'did he swear at you?' I just wanted to make sure so I could reprimand my own player.

"(The official said), 'all he said was 'no', but it was the way he said it.' I was like, 'that warrants a technical foul?' That's what I said to him. Come on."

Outlow stood alone at the free throw line and made his third and fourth free throws.

"I'm hard on myself, me missing those free throws" Outlow said, "but it happens to every athlete. You have to brush it away and keep pushing forward."

Outlow and Ryan Lusk followed with back-to-back layups to push NFA ahead, 52-46.

It was the fewest points Ledyard scored this season.

"We took too many jump shots," Cornish said. "We settled. We didn't attack like we normally do. We tried to live by the 3-point shot tonight. That's about it."

The Wildcats win sets up an unlikely, albeit familiar, ECC final. It's the fourth time in six seasons that NFA and New London will play for the conference title, but neither was a favorite headed into the tournament.

NFA was 6-5 and treading water in late January.

"This team has been a real evolution," Wildcats coach Neal Curland said. "It's been hard, but it's been a beautiful struggle."

New London (15-7) lost twice to No. 2 Woodstock Academy during the regular season. It knocked off the Centaurs in overtime Wednesday, 78-76.

"Same old, same old," Outlow said of the matchup. "We expect a big game from them. They had a big win against Woodstock. Battle of the underdogs. We're ready."

n.griffen@theday.com

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NFA 57, Ledyard 49 (full game)

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