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Ledyard — It was a week to which the Ledyard High School girls' basketball team was looking forward: the long road trip over the weekend to Notre Dame of Fairfield, then a pair of games against new Eastern Connecticut Large Division rivals East Lyme and Norwich Free Academy.
Then on Tuesday night the Colonels were in the middle of that crucial stretch without their leading scorer, Olivia DelGrosso, who fouled out. Tie game.
It took two free throws by Hannah Hutchins, Ledyard's 6-foot-4 center, with 51.9 seconds remaining to give the Colonels the lead for good in a 47-44 victory over East Lyme. Hutchins finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
"They were just outworking us all the way around," said Ledyard coach Adam Baber, who watched East Lyme tie the score 34-34 after three quarters when the Vikings trailed by as many as 13.
"But I tell you what, we showed some guts. Sometimes you need that gut check. And it all started with Hannah Hutchins."
East Lyme scored six straight points to start the fourth quarter with DelGrosso on the bench with four fouls. The Vikings led 40-34 when Baber called a timeout.
Hutchins scored five straight points after that, converting a three-point play that pulled Ledyard within three and driving for another basket to make it 40-39. After Ledyard's Michelle Klinikowski tied the game at 40 with a free throw, Hutchins converted an offensive rebound to put the team back on top.
The game was still tied at 43 on a pair of free throws by East Lyme's Jenna Schumacher when Hutchins was fouled and put the Colonels ahead for good, going 2-for-2 from the line.
East Lyme's Colleen Durkee hit one free throw with 10 seconds left to pull the Vikings within 45-44, forcing East Lyme to foul to get the ball back. Ledyard's Ari Fustini accounted for the final score by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 8.7 seconds to play.
"I don't think it was any one person," Hutchins said, deflecting credit for her star power. "We all had to step up to make up for the fact that Liv fouled out. We worked our butts off."
Klinikowski had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Ledyard (8-1, 3-0) and DelGrosso added 10 points.
Schumacher led East Lyme (7-3, 2-2) with 19 points, including two 3-pointers, and Carynn Bartolucci had four 3-pointers for 12 points. Schumacher and Becca McGlone added nine rebounds each.
Ledyard topped Notre Dame on Saturday 48-19, setting up the back-to-back Large Division games. The Colonels won the ECC Medium Division a year ago before moving to the Large. Ledyard plays at 7 p.m. Friday at NFA in a game that will be livestreamed on theday.com.
DelGrosso set the school record with 35 points, combining that with 11 steals in a win over East Catholic on Dec. 28. She fouled out with 2:33 remaining against East Lyme trying to stop Schumacher from getting to the basket.
"We challenged all five of them to step up," Baber said. "They stepped up to the challenge. We played tremendous defense on Saturday, but today East Lyme took us out of our comfort zone a little. They got hot. Schumacher started to take the game over.
"... I'm drained."
East Lyme led 12-10 after the first quarter, but Ledyard scored nine straight points to start the second, getting a three-point play from Hutchins, two free throws from DelGrosso, an outlet pass from Hutchins to DelGrosso racing for a breakaway, a putback by Hutchins and another drive by DelGrosso to take charge, 21-12.
The Colonels were ahead 27-18 at halftime and made it 31-18 on baskets by Hutchins and Klinikowski to start the second half. East Lyme then went on a 16-3 run, including two 3s each by Schumacher and Bartolucci.
"Basically, every timeout we told them to hold your heads high," East Lyme coach Colleen Hardison said. "We had a chance to win the game. I'm real proud of the way they played; it would have been easy to give up."