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Stonington - New London is undefeated in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division in girls' basketball, a fact that's not lost on its players.
"It's amazing," junior Deanna McCarvell said. "We want it to stay that way. This determines where we are for states."
The Whalers turned a close game, with eight lead changes in the first half, into a 14-point lead in the second half Monday night against Stonington, beating the Bears 60-51 to remain on top of the Medium Division at 5-0. New London is 11-2 overall.
Stonington (10-5, 2-3) led by as many as five points in the first half, when it went 14-for-18 from the free throw line. New London also had three players with three fouls each in the first half.
But while Stonington turned the ball over four times in the first minute of the second half, New London took advantage.
McCarvell scored, Charee Osborne converted an offensive rebound and McCarvell followed with a 3-point field goal to turn the Whalers' four-point lead at halftime into a 39-28 advantage fewer than two minutes into the third quarter.
"It was a headache," New London coach Kerrianne Dugan said of the first half. "We played a little bit of their tempo. In the second half, we played our game, we got into our offense and we had girls step up when some of the other girls got in foul trouble."
McCarvell led the way for the Whalers with 22 points, Lexus Childs-Harris had 12 points and seven rebounds and Osborne had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Margot Calmar, a junior, finished the game with 28 points and 26 rebounds for Stonington, going 10-for-12 from the foul line. Taty LaFrance-Boyce had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
New London took the lead for good with 54 seconds remaining in the first half on a fast break by McCarvell, followed by a foul-line jump shot from Benisha Obas to make it 32-28 in the Whalers' favor at halftime.
New London led 48-38 after three quarters on another putback by Osborne and Osborne scored again to start the fourth quarter. Childs-Harris then hit a pair of free throws as the Whalers stretched the margin to 52-38.
Stonington had one more rally, going on an 11-2 run on the strength of Calmar to pull within five points at 54-49 with 59.9 seconds remaining. LaFrance-Boyce got the run started with a fast break, followed by nine straight Stonington points from Calmar, including two three-point plays.
New London scored the next six points, however, going 6-for-9 from the free throw line to seal the victory.
Stonington finished with 28 turnovers.
"It has been a problem all year," Stonington coach Paulla Solar said. "The kids work really hard and that's what's frustrating. It's hard because they do work hard. But any time you have numerous turnovers, it's difficult to stay in the game. Against a great team, you can't afford that number."
Dugan, in her second year with the Whalers, led the team to a 10-12 record last season. Before her arrival, New London was 2-18. If the coach, formerly a 1,000-point scorer at Waterford where she played in two state championship games, had one message for her players it would be this: stay hungry.
"Not be satisfied, continue to raise the bar," Dugan said. "... They're a team. They all get along with each other. They come to play every single day. We challenge them a lot; we have a lot of competitions.
"I tell them all the time, we didn't have the biggest girls or the fastest girls (at Waterford). We just did well because of hard work."