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New London - Maybe New London High School girls' basketball coach Kerrianne Dugan thought it to be bad news that her team lost to Weaver late Saturday afternoon, 69-47.
But that was the good news, too.
So far this season, Weaver, ranked sixth in the New Haven Register state poll, is the only team to beat the Whalers (7-2).
New London lost by six to Weaver earlier in the season and trailed by as few as nine late in the second half this time around against an opponent the Whalers were supposed to play in the Doc Hurley Basketball Classic before the tournament was canceled. That cancellation resulted in an entertaining home-and-home series between the pair.
At any rate, the thought two years ago of the Whalers - who were 2-18 before Dugan's arrival a year ago - playing a competitive game against Weaver with coaches from around eastern Connecticut in the stands to scout, would have been rather far-fetched.
"Before last year, we would have never thought they'd be in our competition," said New London junior guard Deanna McCarvell, who finished with 20 points Saturday. "And we would not have these people in the stands, different coaches who want to see what we're about."
New London, which finished 10-12 last year and qualified for the Eastern Connecticut Conference and state tournaments for the first time in eight years, added talented freshmen Jada Lucas and India Pagan to this season's lineup to go with an already improving roster.
The Whalers are now 4-0 and in first place in the ECC Medium Division, topping Montville in a matchup of the division's unbeaten teams on Friday night, 64-50, getting 18 points from McCarvell and 15 points and 14 rebounds from Charee Osborne.
After McCarvell, Lexus Childs-Harris had 11 points against Weaver, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer marking the end of the third quarter. Osborne had 14 rebounds and Pagan 10.
"That's the positive side if there is one," Dugan said of having lost only to Weaver. "The skill level is there, but today was just a lack of effort. (Weaver) got out in transition. They scored off our turnovers.
"... I just expect the best from them. They don't have an option. They hold themselves to a different standard (than before). There was a very high expectation this year. We just try to build each day. I can't expect it to be 100 percent right from the beginning."
Weaver started out with a 19-3 lead before Lucas hit a jump shot off the dribble to close the first quarter.
The Whalers then unleashed another seven straight points, completing a 9-0 run that brought them within 19-12, getting a basket inside from Pagan, two free throws from McCarvell after she was fouled on the front end of a fast break and a 3-pointer from Childs-Harris.
Weaver outscored the Whalers just 19-18 in the second quarter in what was New London's best stretch. Weaver led 38-23 at halftime before picking up the pace and lengthening the lead in the second half.
"They saw what we brought, then they brought it back," McCarvell said. "We always want to look up to better competition. It's just disappointing because we lost to them last time by six; if we all played together today, we thought we could get by them."
DeJane James led Weaver with 20 points, while Shaquana Edwards scored 19 and Amanda Stewart 16.
Weaver lost its first game earlier this week against No. 10 South Windsor, 56-55.
New London next plays Lyman Memorial and Windham in a pair of cross-over games in the ECC this coming week before resuming its Medium Division schedule on Jan. 21 at Stonington, hoping to win the title in their first season since moving from the Large Division.
"(Friday against Montville) was a huge step," Dugan said. "But we still have a big chunk of Medium games to go."