Don't count out NFA

Buy Photo Tim Martin/The Day Norwich Free Academy's Maya Bell, center, draws a foul as she's guarded by Ledyard defenders, from left, Ari Fustini, Kylie Fustini and Michelle Klinikowski during the second half of Wednesday night's ECC tournament semifinal game at NFA. NFA, the No. 3 seed, is the tournament's defending champion. The Wildcats will face No. 1 Bacon Academy for the title on Friday.

Norwich - It is a considerable trick to turn your big brother, the one who just committed to play big-time college football hours earlier, into the second most famous person in the family for a day.

Yet there was Norwich Free Academy freshman Cebria Outlow changing the game Wednesday night in the conference tournament semifinals, supplying some fiber in the post to combat Ledyard's length and sinking a clutch 3-pointer late. This wasn't long after news broke that big brother Marcus, an NFA junior, had just committed to play football at Boston College.

Outlow's nine second-half points and Alyssa Velles' clutch layup with 1:16 remaining gave the third-seeded Wildcats a 42-40 victory over No. 2 Ledyard. NFA (16-5) advanced to the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament championship game Friday night against top-seeded Bacon Academy.

Bacon advanced with a 60-43 win over No. 4 East Lyme.

"Outlow really stepped up," Ledyard coach Adam Baber said. "I knew that 3 was good when it left her hand."

Baber was also a little stunned. He scouted NFA extensively and didn't recall Outlow, a post player, making a 3-pointer in any game he'd seen. And yet she made one with two minutes remaining, giving NFA a one-point lead.

"So far this year, I've made the two (3s) that I've attempted. And nobody was guarding me," Outlow said. "I thought, 'I might as well go for it.'"

NFA coach Bill Scarlata grinned, recalling Outlow's 3 and said, "whenever we shoot, I usually close my eyes anyway."

Velles, who nearly singlehandedly won last year's ECC final, made a driving layup that eventually won the game.

It helped, too, that Ledyard suffered through a free throw disorder most of the game. The Colonels made 5 of 15 from the line.

"That's what I'll think about the most," Baber said. "We got in the bonus in the third quarter and the double bonus most of the fourth. We didn't take advantage. That's what it came down to."

Velles led NFA with 13 points. Olivia Marks had 10 and Outlow finished with nine.

Michelle Klinikowski had 13 for the Colonels (18-4).

Bacon (21-1) was hardly threatened. The Bobcats, ranked fifth in the latest state media poll, led 23-5 and didn't let East Lyme (16-5) get closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

Sarah Rogers led the Bobcats with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Carlee Putnam had 16 points and Taylor McLaughlin had 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Bacon coach Dave Shea, who would earn his 1,000th career coaching victory Friday night (combining boys' basketball, girls' basketball and baseball), also lauded the defense of senior Michaela Siver, who was assigned to East Lyme's Jenna Schumacher, its leading scorer. Schumacher finished with nine points.

Colleen Durkee led the Vikings with 16 points.

m.dimauro@theday.com

Bacon Academy's Michaela Siver, center, attempts to grab a loose ball between the defense of East Lyme's Allison Stoddard, left, and Jenna Schumacher in the second half of Wednesday night's ECC tournament semifinal game at NFA. Top-seeded Bacon won 60-43 to advance to Friday night's championship game.
Buy Photo Tim Martin/ The Day Bacon Academy's Michaela Siver, center, attempts to grab a loose ball between the defense of East Lyme's Allison Stoddard, left, and Jenna Schumacher in the second half of Wednesday night's ECC tournament semifinal game at NFA. Top-seeded Bacon won 60-43 to advance to Friday night's championship game.
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