Published February 15. 2014 4:00AM Updated February 15. 2014 9:57AM
A hot start carries 'Cats past Whalers
Norwich — It could be a historic, if not entertaining conference tournament next month, what with several schools — Ledyard, New London, Woodstock, Bacon Academy and homestanding Waterford — all with a chance to win the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament.
And now along comes Norwich Free Academy. Especially after this week, maybe its best of the season.
The Wildcats, who came within a eyelash of upsetting Ledyard earlier this week, rode an early 20-point lead Friday night into a 71-59 win over New London, their first win at home over the Whalers since 2004.
They also snapped New London's 13-game winning streak.
"I feel like we're playing great basketball, feeling more confident in what we do," NFA senior Marcus Outlow said, not long after scoring 27 points. "We're playing gritty defense. We could be special team and make a lot of noise in the ECC tournament if we keep playing like this."
Outlow scored 13 of his 27 points in the first quarter. Teammate Desmond D'Elia Miller finished with 18 as the Wildcats (12-6) never let their sizeable early lead slip below six.
"We know Marcus is going to get his. That's a given," New London coach Craig Parker said. "When you play a team like Norwich, you can't let other kids hurt you. We know Marcus. He's an athlete."
Nabate Metts led the Whalers with 17 points and Nick Barner had 12 off the bench. Outlow and NFA's defense held leading scorers Seth Lake and Collin Sawyer to a combined 10 points.
"We're not looking at this as a wakeup call," Parker said. "We don't consider ourselves to be a powerhouse high school team by any stretch. We're not a vintage New London team. We have a great bunch of kids who play well together. But we're not a powerhouse New London team. No one ever said we were."
Parker said he thought two teams in the conference — Bacon and Waterford — had chance to win a state championship this season "in a weak Class M."
But before the state tournament comes the conference tournament. And the Wildcats are playing well.
"This team is just going to have to grind it out," NFA coach Chris Guisti said. "They actually enjoy it. They're a lot more comfortable grinding out a close game than I am."