Gonzalez's late three gets New London past NFA 65-62

Norwich — Don't leave New London's Edwardo Gonzalez open.

Ever.

Even if Gonzalez is in a shooting slump, put a body him.

Gonzalez has been one of the more proficient long-shot artists in the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season. Any scouting report on New London should begin with, "don't let Gonzalez shoot threes." And in capital letters.

So there was Gonzalez, all alone in the left corner, with less than two minutes left in Friday's game and the Whalers trailing Norwich Free Academy by two points.

Guess what happened next?

"Why he was open like that, I have no idea," New London head coach Craig Parker said about Gonzalez's go-ahead three after the Whalers' 65-62 ECC Division I win.

"(Isaiah Benson) got a screen for me so I could get an open shot," Gonzalez said.

Funny enough, Gonzalez scored "just" 10 points for New London (8-2, 3-1). He scored 34 in a 94-75 win over Hartford Public on Dec. 30.

It was Elijah Martinez who had the hot hand (a season-high 30 points) for the Whalers, while Benson slithered his way around the basket for 16 rebounds (eight offensive) and 14 points.

Gonzalez's 3-pointer gave the Whalers a 61-60 lead with one minute, 35 seconds left in a back-and-forth fourth quarter. It was his third and final field goal of the game. He made his other two field goals way back in the first quarter.

"Hopefully, that will get (Gonzalez) going again," Parker said. "He's been in a little bit of a shooting slump for us. That (3-pointer) is what he's capable of doing, and tonight he definitely came up in a big moment and made the big shot."

Jalen Benson made the first of two free throws, followed by two Martinez free throws, to extend New London's lead to 64-60 with 17.1 seconds remaining.

Brendan Maher cut NFA's deficit in half with two free throws a few seconds later.

Gonzalez was intentionally fouled and made the first of his two free throws to account for the final score. He missed the second, the Wildcats missed two shots, and the Whalers' Gio Lopez grabbed the rebound for the win.

It was just another night in the ECC, one night after East Lyme knocked off previously unbeaten Waterford (64-60), which beat Ledyard (84-64, Dec. 28), which beat East Lyme (71-55, Jan. 11), which beat New London (72-56, Jan. 9).

NFA gave sixth-ranked Holy Cross problems in a 44-40 loss on Monday, too.

"A lot of the (ECC) teams are going to be good in the state tournament," Wildcats head coach Chris Guisti said. "Those who are playing in Divisions II, III, IV ... they're really going to have a great chance (to win a state title)."

Aidan Miller made four 3-pointers and scored 28 with eight rebounds for NFA (6-3, 1-1). Bret Wood added eight points and 10 rebounds and Brenden Sholes scored 12.

The Wildcats led the majority of the fourth quarter but couldn't go ahead by more than three points thanks to Martinez. He scored nine that period and finished with 10 field goals, half of which were 3-pointers.

"What? Are you kidding me?," Parker exclaimed when told Martinez scored 30. "Wow. … That's outstanding. He was in rhythm tonight."

n.griffen@theday.com

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