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Waterbury - It was during the third quarter, the lead seesawing back and forth, that Ledyard's Darnay Gray got possession of a loose ball in the paint, the pro-Crosby crowd issuing a collective sigh that was audible throughout the gym.
Gray, Ledyard's 6-foot-3 center who finished the third quarter and the game with 24 points, scored on the play. And he scored again with 5.2 seconds remaining in the period on a spin move, as the Colonels took the lead for good.
The sixth-seeded Ledyard High School boys' basketball team quieted No. 3 Crosby and its home crowd Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Class LL state tournament, winning 70-62 and advancing to the semifinals of a tournament two classes above its natural enrollment (Class M).
The Colonels (21-4), who battled foul trouble against Crosby, will next meet No. 2 Bridgeport Central in the semis at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. Bridgeport Central topped No. 10 Ridgefield 78-68 in the quarterfinals Monday.
"I think Crosby thought offense wins. We believe defense wins," Ledyard coach Dave Cornish said, alluding to the fact the Colonels held Crosby to a season-low 62 points. "It was a matter of whose will was going to win. Defensively, we did a really good job."
As for Gray, Cornish couldn't stop talking about the charging call the senior absorbed against the Bulldogs.
"He had a tremendous game. I told him, 'You got to do things you haven't done, big fella,'" Cornish said. "He took a charge. … (On offense), he's a load. He's a load. It's tough to stop him."
Dom Benson and Phyllip Thomas added 14 points each for Ledyard and DeAnte Bruton 13.
Ledyard trailed 18-10 after the first quarter, going on its first big run in the second quarter to take a 22-20 lead, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Thomas and Bruton and two straight baskets by Gray in a 12-2 run.
Crosby (24-2) again led by eight, 34-26, but Gray's two free throws and a shot by Benson to end the half cut deficit to 34-30.
In the third quarter, Bruton picked up his fourth foul just two and a half minutes in and had to leave the game. Meanwhile, the lead changed five times in the final 1:39, with Gray, Thomas and Benson all scoring for the Colonels. Benson scored again on a drive to start the fourth quarter and Thomas made one of two from the foul line, as Ledyard took a 53-48 lead.
A 3-pointer by Crosby's Tyshon Rogers pulled the Bulldogs within 62-61 with 2:08 remaining, but Ledyard then held the ball, taking nearly a minute off the clock before Crosby was forced to foul.
Benson made both ends of the one-and-one to put Ledyard ahead three (64-61) and the Colonels outscored their opponents 8-1 in the final 1:21, going 8-for-8 from the free throw line, four by Benson and four by Bruton.
"We play in what people call a weak conference," Thomas said. "This was a big confidence boost. They played here when coach (Pete) Vincent was coaching and upset them, too, he said. It was a confidence-builder, as well as making a name for our program."
"We did it. We were underdogs, but I knew we were better," Gray said. "We play hard. It feels great. We're a medium school. But we didn't win it yet and that's our goal. We've still got work to do."
Ledyard was bumped to Class L this year because of its past success in Class M. When that happened, Cornish figured why not go all the way to the top and compete in Class LL, with Ledyard petitioning to move up another class entirely.
But Cornish believed that with a point guard of Bruton's caliber and a big man in Gray, any division was fair game.
The Colonels also seemed to have speed on Crosby, twice in the fourth quarter throwing an outlet pass the length of the court for a layup and getting an end-to-end layup from Bruton with the game on the line.
"Everyone looked at me like I had two heads," Cornish said of the switch in divisions. "Tonight is great. There are only four teams left in LL and we're one of them. No one would have said that earlier in the year.
"I said we had to play out of our minds to do this and we have to play even better on Wednesday. But we're going to show up and try to win that one, too."