Miller scores 32 as NFA edges Ledyard 67-65

Norwich Free Academy's Aidan Miller, left, beats Ledyard's Xavier Whitmore  on a fast break Monday night in an ECC Division I boys' basketball matchup at Ledyard. Miller finished with 32 points as the Wildcats defeated the Colonels 67-65. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Norwich Free Academy's Aidan Miller, left, beats Ledyard's Xavier Whitmore on a fast break Monday night in an ECC Division I boys' basketball matchup at Ledyard. Miller finished with 32 points as the Wildcats defeated the Colonels 67-65. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Ledyard — There has been a vicious cycle in Eastern Connecticut Conference boys’ basketball this season.

East Lyme, Ledyard, New London and Waterford have all beaten up on another this season in a fight for conference supremacy, transforming the phrase “any team can beat any other team on any given day” from cliché to reality.

Norwich Free Academy forced its way into the ECC’s circle of strife on Monday. Just barely.

Aidan Miller scored 32 as the Wildcats held on by the skin of the skin of their teeth for a 67-65 win over Ledyard, the latest madcap game in the ECC’s “can-you-top-this” season.

NFA led by as many as 18 points (58-40) with over six minutes left in the game, then held its breath as the Colonels blitzed the Wildcats late and missed a game-tying layup at the buzzer.

“Ledyard has been the most consistently good team in this league for the last four years,” NFA coach Chris Guisti said. “This was definitely a mountain to climb. It was not going to be easy and, yeah, for about 27 minutes, it looked like it was going to be easy. And you know, we all paid the price for letting ourselves think that.

“At the end of the day, they don’t draw a picture on the scorebook of how you won. They just say you won.”

The Wildcats (10-4, 2-2 ECC Division I) had previously shown that they could hang with the top teams. They gave fourth-ranked Holy Cross one of its toughest games in a losing cause (44-40, Jan. 15). They had a late lead against New London but lost 65-62 (Jan. 19).

“This was something these guys have never experienced, beating Ledyard in their own gym,” Guisti said, both about the significance of the win and the fact it it turned into a heart-stopper late.

Miller was ridiculous for the Wildcats. The senior made five 3-pointers and scored as many in the third quarter (12) as the Colonels.

“I guess it was my night,” Miller said sheepishly.

Um, yeah. It was.

“He’s been right there lockstep with all these other guys that everybody is talking about throughout his career,” Guisti said. “He showed tonight what he could do. You just don’t pull that out of a hat.”

Bret Wood added 10 points for the Wildcats.

Ledyard (8-4, 2-2) was lethargic for stretches of the game. It didn’t score its first points until there were 3 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Colonels still almost pulled it off as they ended the game on an 18-6 run.

Devin Rickerson scored 10 of his team-high 21 in the fourth quarter, including nine straight points that cut Ledyard’s deficit to 64-60 with 27.8 seconds remaining.

“We didn’t come out like a team that just lost Friday night (to Waterford, 59-49),” Ledyard coach Dave Cornish said. “And that's what bothered me the most. There was no intensity. No sense of urgency.”

Trevor Hutchins scored 15 for Ledyard and Ken Turner added 10 points.

Miller's 3-pointer with two seconds left in the third quarter gave NFA a 54-40.

Wood scored the first four points in the fourth quarter to extend the Wildcats' lead.

Ledyard began to assert itself defensively while Rickerson began making whatever shot he wanted.

“The intensity level (was) turned up,” Cornish said. “That's what happens when you turn up the defensive pressure on teams. People do it to us. We decided to do it to someone else and look what happens. It creates turnovers.”

Hutchins, a center, made a 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining to cut NFA’s lead to 67-65.

“I’ve played with Hutchins (in AAU), and I’ve never seen him hit a 3 in my life,” Miller said.

NFA missed two free throws with 4.8 seconds left, then exhaled deeply after Ledyard's missed its layup to end the game.

“We'll walk out of this gym happy with the win,” Guisti said. “I don’t care if it was 2-1.”

n.griffen@theday.com

Ledyard's Xavier Whitmore goes up for a shot  over NFA's Brendan Maher  during Monday night's boys' basketball game at Ledyard High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Ledyard's Xavier Whitmore goes up for a shot over NFA's Brendan Maher during Monday night's boys' basketball game at Ledyard High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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