Bacon girls survive interesting final minute to beat Stonington

Colchester — It is Stonington coach Paulla Solar's hope, despite a narrow loss at Bacon Academy, that her team can keep the fever pitch to which it played Tuesday night for the remainder of the season.

If it does? That will make the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II girls' basketball race a really, really interesting one.

Bacon held on to beat Stonington 67-64, but not before Bacon had three players foul out with coach Dave Shea out of timeouts for the final minute. Stonington (6-3 overall, 2-1 in the division) trailed 67-57 with 1 minute, 16 seconds to play before scoring the game's final seven points and very nearly completing the comeback when Bacon was assessed a technical foul with 1.3 seconds remaining.

That gave Stonington two technical free throws and the ball, but the Bears came up empty on all fronts, finishing 9-for-22 from the foul line overall, 5-for-16 in the fourth quarter.

"There's not much difference between the two teams," said a relieved Shea, whose team is 6-2 overall, 1-1 in the division. "... We did everything we could almost to give 'em the game at the end. I'm out of timeouts; the whole last minute we were nervous. There's going to be a lot of games like this."

"I love the way my kids always dig down," Solar said. "I feel good about this game. Bacon's a good team. I hope we can keep up this intensity. ... I think sometimes the kids work so hard at practice, they're able to push it a little at the end (of games)."

Bacon led 32-25 at halftime and throughout the second half, with Stonington seemingly done in by the Bobcats' 3-point shooting every time it drew close. Molly Kelly's steal and layup gave Shea's team the 10-point lead with little more than a minute remaining.

Elise Cataldi and Kate Johnson, however, each contributed a free throw and Aliza Bell converted an offensive rebound off Johnson's miss on the second foul shot to pull within 67-61 with 44 seconds to play. With 12 seconds left, Cataldi hit a 3-pointer from the right-hand corner.

And with 1.3 seconds on the clock, Bell and Bacon's Bridget Anderson were each assessed a foul, in addition to a technical foul called on a Bacon player. Bacon missed its two free throws and Stonington then missed its opportunities from the line, as well, leaving the score as is. Stonington missed one final prayer from just inside halfcourt in an attempt to tie it.

Both teams had standout performances, including 16 points and 21 rebounds by Bell. Stonington's Kate Hall had 19 points, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Johnson had 14 points and three assists.

Bacon's Anderson led five players in double figures with 15 and freshman Caitlin Shea, granddaughter of the longtime head coach, had a career-high 13 points along with 10 rebounds and four assists.

Bacon shot 29-for-57 (50.9 percent) and Stonington 25-for-57 (43.9 percent) in the well-matched game.

Stonington led 14-11 after one quarter, with Bacon ahead 32-25 at halftime. In the second half, Stonington quickened the pace of the game, with Hall, one of the state's fastest 100-meter runners, not surprisingly out on the front end of several fast breaks.

Johnson scored five straight points on a 3-pointer and a jump shot to pull the Bears within 44-40 with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter, but Bacon's Taylor Rochette found the answer to that. She stood in the left-hand corner and rained in back-to-back 3s to push the lead right back to double figures.

"Bacon is known for a lot of 3s and we talked about it," Solar said. "We still have to work on that."

She also addressed the Bears' free throw shooting. The team was also 10-for-26 from the line in a loss to South Kingstown in the championship game of the Westerly holiday tournament.

"That's something we've got to clean up," said Solar, whose team faces Montville on Friday in another Division II faceoff. "This is the second game we have lost at the free throw line. We work too hard to lose on the free throw line."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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