Drama? Not on this night

New London

Not that you didn't already know this, but we in the media love a good story. Sometimes too much, romanticizing people, places and things to the extreme.

And so maybe there was wee bit of embellishment in the moments leading to tip off Friday night at Conway Gym. All rainbows and lollipops. Dave Cornish and Troy McKelvin, the New London guys gone to save the basketball program at Ledyard, suddenly returning to their gym for a chance to slay their old school in the league tournament championship game.

Craig Parker, like the proud father, watching his old player and old assistant coach, bringing the same attitude to 24 Gallup Hill Rd.

This was one of those moments where you shouldn't believe everything you read.

Because beneath Old Home Week was a festering rivalry. The idea that Ledyard might actually win? Hail the conquering heroes? Positively delicious for Cornish, the head coach, and McKelvin, his assistant, who have spent most of their lives celebrating victory on the same court. The idea Ledyard might actually win? Enough to make Parker, the New London coach with four rings, lose his lunch on the same real estate.

So this was a big game. A big opportunity. In front of a big crowd - 1,700 strong - ready to watch another David (Cornish, in this case) use his slingshot.

And then it was New London 22, Ledyard 3.

No more energy in the gym, drama to be savored.

"It wasn't so much wanting to send a message," New London senior Khaleed Fields said. "But people have questioned our game. They've cheap-shotted our players. Before the game, we talked about how we've never lost an ECC game. We weren't going to let it start now."

The Whalers weren't cutting down the nets when it ended. Just maybe a few pictures. They weren't reserving space on the gym walls for a banner. This is pretty much the standard script.

Example: In answering a question about New London's fifth straight tournament title, Parker began with a complete sentence and was mumbling by the end, drawing a few giggles from his assistant coaches and his wife, Missy. Then there was Fields, the aspiring engineer, who was clearer about it than a bottle of Poland Spring.

"We don't see the ECC as a big deal," Fields said. "It did feel great to see such a big crowd. But we don't hang ECC banners. They go in the garbage."

"In the Hefty bag," teammate Voghens Larrieux said.

And somewhere around ECC land, the contempt for New London just grew a little more.

Just know the Whalers, unimpressed as they sounded, were pretty satisfied with the outcome, even if they understand the banner portion of the season begins Tuesday.

"We don't always play well early in games. You know. Any given Sunday," tournament Most Outstanding Player Kris Dunn said. "But we played with great defensive intensity. That's what won us the game."

Parker agreed: "I didn't say it to them directly," he said, alluding to whether he entertained the thought of actually losing in front of his players, "but I knew if we played with defensive intensity, that would be the result."

Dunn's graduation, not to mention the graduations of Malcolm Simmons, Doug Henton, Fields and Larrieux, signify the end of the glory days. Not that the Whalers will be helpless. They'll still have Keith Porter, who is becoming a college player before us.

But Ledyard will have virtually its entire team back.

"Ledyard is young," Parker said. "They could have a nice little future."

Parker and the Whalers will always have their glorious past. And they'll have the next few weeks, during which they could accomplish something they never have in the estimable history of the program: A Class LL title.

They'll have to beat, most likely, Xavier, Bridgeport Central, Windsor, St. Joseph and Hillhouse to do it.

"We're going to the states," Fields said. "We know we'll have to play much better."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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