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New London -Craig Parker generally takes losses as well as one takes chugging curdled milk with a Tabasco chaser.
Parker was about as peaceful and serene as one could be after his New London High boys' basketball team had its worst clunker of the season on Thursday night. The Whalers had a maddeningly bad shooting performance and lost to Ridgefield, 53-33, in a CIAC Class LL second-round game at Conway Gymnasium.
"I just told the kids I was happy with the season," Parker said. "I told them it was one of the best teams I've ever coached in terms of just being enjoyable to coach, maybe one of my best teams in that regard."
The seventh-seeded Whalers finished 19-5 with an Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division championship.
"They have nothing to hang their heads about," Parker said. "I know that these kids played their hardest. You can remain positive with a good bunch of kids."
Collin Sawyer scored a team-high 11 points for New London and Josh Maynard added eight rebounds.
Charles Irwin had 15 points and six rebounds for the No. 10 Tigers (19-5), who advance to Monday's quarterfinals at No. 2 Bridgeport Central, a Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference rival.
New London didn't have a player make more than one basket in the first half and trailed at halftime, 22-14.
Tigers sophomore William Brady added to New London's woes to start the third quarter. He made back-to-back 3-pointers to push Ridgefield ahead, 28-14.
"He missed a couple of shots in the first half," Tigers coach Andrew McClellan said. "He's been making shots for us all year long. I told him to keep taking them. I usually don't have to tell him that. He probably would've done it anyway, but right off the bat, two (3-pointers) in a row. That extended the lead and everyone took a deep breath, and now that puts the pressure on them, and they didn't make shots tonight."
The Whalers, on the other hand, missed three makeable shots between Brady's 3-pointers.
"We were never really able to get into a rhythm," Maynard said. "I missed three-or-four threes in the beginning. … That was probably our worst shooting game."
New London kept battling, and Sawyer's 3-pointer cut the Whalers' deficit to 39-29 with over four minutes left in the game.
Ridgefield was content to stall and force the Whalers to foul. It worked as the Tigers scored 12 of their final 13 points at the free throw line.
"They (shots) just weren't falling for us," Maynard said. "We had a good season. I wish we could've won this one and went further, but it's alright."