Pagan (24 rebounds), Whalers use inside dominance to rout Cromwell

Cromwell — New London's Tai Pagan was asked to guess how many rebounds she had after the unbeaten Whalers team thumped Cromwell on Saturday, 58-34.

"Fifteen?," Pagan said.

Higher.

"Twenty?," Pagan said.

Keep going.

"23?," Pagan said.

Pagan had 24 rebounds, 14 offensive, leading New London's inside job that ruined Cromwell.

"Oh, my God, that's crazy," Pagan said. "If anyone forgets to box out, I make sure that I'm there. I always try to make sure I'm somewhere in the mix of getting the basketball."

The Whalers' rebounding advantage was so ludicrous that anyone who wasn't there would question its legitimacy — 59-25. That included 36 offensive rebounds.

Rebounding is a source of pride for New London (17-0), ranked second in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register girls' basketball poll.

"It really is," the 6-foot Pagan said. "Since we have more height than a lot of teams, we always make sure we have players in there. We only send one player back (after a missed shot) and everyone else has to crash."

Pagan also had 14 points and five steals.

Rosi Nicholson had the second-most rebounds for New London (11, five offensive). She's a 5-foot-5½ guard.

"I don't know (how I do it)," she said. "Growing up I used to do wall sits a lot. It strengthens your legs, and in practice, coach (Holly Misto) sometimes has us do wall sits."

Misto said, "She gets in there and she finds a way. She can jump through the roof."

Nicholson also had 10 points, seven assists and four steals. Xaryia Melendez added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Spencer Roman had seven rebounds (all offensive), five steals and four rebounds.

This wasn't some patsy that the Whalers clocked, either. Cromwell is 13-3 (unbeaten in the Shoreline Conference) and ranked seventh in Class M. It won Class M in 2013 and 2016.

"They're taller than us, but we also have to make contact and push them back, too," Panthers head coach Kelly Maher said. "We didn't do that.

"We did what we wanted them to do, take those outside shots, but they got five or six chances inside, which hurt us. It's really what (the result) comes down to, the rebounds."

Jenna Serrantino (16 points, four steals) was the only Panther to score in double figures.

New London was sloppy early and trailed 12-11 after the first quarter. The Whalers opened the second quarter with an 11-0 run. Leilani McClellan (four assists) made 3-pointer during that run.

Cromwell didn't score until there was three minutes, 14 seconds left in the period. It shot 1-of-13 that quarter, and then missed its first six shots of the second half.

"They wanted this game today," Misto said of her Whalers. "They weren't going to let anyone stop them."

n.griffen@theday.com

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