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'Little' Ledyard has some big goals

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published January 21. 2014 4:00AM

Ledyard

The score will resonate among anyone who follows high school basketball throughout the state: Ledyard 73, Hartford Capital 57.

Hartford Capital: a 7-1 record before Monday night's foray into Standish Gym, Class S runner up last season, very good player in Levy Gillespie Jr. and the state's 20th-ranked team in the latest New Haven Register state media poll.

And yet on the way to the locker room in an otherwise happy building, Troy McKelvin, Ledyard's assistant coach, shook his head.

"We didn't send a message," he said.

McKelvin was growling about how they should have won by more, had they done this and that. All those little things coaches worry about while the rest of us are having a pizza after the game.

Head coach Dave Cornish, meanwhile, upon hearing his grumpy friend, chimed in with an "I'll take it," referring to the victory, adding that "it's better than losing."

Hard to argue that one.

Cornish was asked after the game why it was important to "send a message." Style points aren't supposed to count in anything else beyond platform diving.

"We're little old Ledyard High School. You know. In the corner over here," Cornish said. "They don't even know how to say our name. Led-YARD. We're trying to build a program here to let people in the state know.

"We've been doing a nice job of that the last couple of years," Cornish said. "Teams like Wilbur Cross are asking us to scrimmage. People come to watch us when we play teams like that."

Little old Ledyard.

Sounds a lot like Tommie Major, who likes to say of New London, "we're just a small little country school."

This much we know: Little old Ledyard is playing a big old schedule. Bloomfield, Xavier, Glastonbury, Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) and Hartford Capital are five of the nine games to date.

It's pretty clear that Cornish would never make it as a football coach in the Eastern Connecticut Conference. Way too tough of a schedule. You know. This is the ECC. One school even decided to play St. Bernard twice this season because, apparently, the rhapsody of playing the Saints once didn't move the needle.

So now there's Cornish, the third-year coach at Ledyard with the New London roots and pedigree. He even decided the Colonels would play in Class LL this season.

Ledyard, by enrollment, is a Class M school. It was designated for Class L by the state in the preseason, the residual effect of Ledyard's newfound status as a "school of choice."

"Class L, LL, what the heck. Same deal," Cornish said. "L is loaded, too. It's all luck of the draw."

The perception, though, is impressive. Who the heck ever plays up in anything anymore?

"We've considered ourselves the best program in the area," McKelvin said. "So if NFA and New London can play in LL, why can't we?"

More McKelvin: "You know what we'd hear at New London a lot? NFA people would say, 'you guys win (state titles) play in the smaller division (usually Class L or M).' But how can that be your argument when we beat you twice by 20?"

The purpose of the regular season is not to line up 20 patsies, win by 30 and then know nothing about yourself come knockout time. Ledyard's schedule will give the kids a frame of reference for every possible situation in the state tournament. Example from Monday night: Can they play a good team with center Darnay Gray in foul trouble most of the first half? Answer: Absolutely. And if the situation arises in the tournament, all Cornish has to say is, "remember the Hartford Capital game?"

The Colonels have won five straight. Their nonleague schedule is exemplary. They may cut a swath through the ECC, but say this much: The conference is decent this year. Aside from the Colonels, there's New London, Woodstock, Bacon, NFA, Fitch and Waterford all at varying levels of pretty good (should make for a great league tournament, too).

Class LL is certainly loaded. But this team has a legitimate chance.

"I remember Hubie Brown saying you can't be afraid to take chances," Cornish said. "There's certainly no guarantee we'd win Class L. So if we're in L, LL who knows?"

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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