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Ledyard - It was late in the fourth quarter, a Class L semifinal berth on the line, when Ledyard High School coach Adam Baber scripted a play that sent Michelle Klinikowski deep on an inbounds pass.
Not that your 6-foot-2 forward is your usual culprit to run the floor on the fast break and score an easy layup ahead of the defense. But Ledyard doesn't exactly have your typical frontcourt.
"A lot of times you're either good or you're big. We're both," Baber said. "I was glad to ask Michelle, my gazelle, to get out and run. When you've got Michelle, I knew she was faster than the girls who were guarding her."
Six-foot-four center Hannah Hutchins finished with 21 points and Klinikowski 17 for the No. 4-seeded Ledyard girls Thursday night in a 62-46 victory over No. 5 Avon in the quarterfinal round, a win that makes the Colonels 24-0 the last two seasons on their home court at the Standish Gymnasium.
Ledyard (22-3) will take on top-seeded and unbeaten Hartford Capital in the semifinals at a site and time to be announced Monday.
"I thought this was the best game the Ledyard girls' basketball team played in my four years here," Baber said. "Just watching their competitive nature. It was a great atmosphere, like Rocky and Apollo going down to the last few minutes. It was a fun game to watch."
Of course, Baber may have responded differently had he been asked about the game after the first quarter. He challenged his team to hold Avon to fewer than 10 points per quarter. The score after the first eight minutes?
Avon 19, Ledyard 18.
Klinikowski had 13 points at halftime, however, as Ledyard opened a 30-25 lead, and the Colonels launched a 12-2 run to start the third quarter with back-to-back three-point plays to start things from Olivia DelGrosso and Hutchins.
Hutchins scored two straight baskets to end the run, making it 42-27, getting an inbounds pass from Ari Fustini for the first one and a pass to the middle from Bianca Matira on the left wing for the second.
Hutchins, headed to play for Division I Utah State next year, finished with three three-point plays, what Klinikowski said seemed more like "20."
"It's insane," Klinikowski said of Hutchins. "The box-outs, the and-ones. We can run high-lows together. I love having Hutch on the team. We couldn't win a lot of games without her."
Among Klinikowski's other highlights were a fast break earlier in the game, on which Fustini found her for a layup, and a blocked shot in the third quarter at the 3-point arc. Klinikowski, was an all-state volleyball player in the fall and The Day's Volleyball Player of the Year after leading the Colonels to the semifinals there, as well.
Her inbounds play with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left, on which she caught a halfcourt pass and loped to an easy layup, made the score an insurmountable 52-37 in Ledyard's favor.
"She makes so many athletic plays, it's really hard to pick one," Baber said. "And she made smart, athletic plays, which is what we needed tonight."
Baber credited his assistant coaches, Tom Paige and Chris Ritacco, for helping prepare the team for the matchup with Avon. He's hoping the way the Colonels played Thursday will let them play with the same competitiveness against Capital.
Fustini and DelGrosso added 12 points each for Ledyard, while Michaela Marcus finished with 18 points to lead Avon.
"It was the best win with the best timing we had," Baber said. "We've got a nice little insurance policy with these two in the back."