Stonington bounces back and advances to ECC Div. I semis

Stonington — Stonington coach Paulla Solar called one practice last week "very, very, very difficult," the day following the Bears' loss to Woodstock Academy in a game which was played for the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II title.

"We talked about how things need to change," Solar said. "We talked about that when things are going wrong, we need somebody on this team to step it up. We all kind of held back up at Woodstock. I thought they played with more confidence (Thursday) ... They all had a purpose going on out there."

Two games removed from very, very, very difficult, the Bears turned into a team opposing coach Sal Fiorillo of East Lyme said played with polish Thursday night.

No. 4 Stonington beat No. 5 East Lyme 47-35 in the quarterfinals of the ECC Division I tournament, advancing to a semifinal game against No. 1 New London at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Norwich Free Academy, when Solar will take her first crack at her 400th career victory. The second semifinal, at 6:30 p.m., will feature No. 2 NFA vs. No. 6 Bacon Academy.

The Bears got 15 points from Kate Hall, a machine-like 30 rebounds from Aliza Bell — in a game with 71 missed shots — and a superlative performance on defense from Miranda Arruda, who drew the assignment of stopping East Lyme whiz kid Megan Bauman.

Things didn't start out well, as Bauman drove untouched to the basket twice, with East Lyme taking an easy 6-0 lead. The Vikings then led 13-10 after one quarter on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Julia Fenn.

East Lyme, however, was playing without starting guard Sophie Dubreuil, who had a walking boot on her right foot, and post player Nadia Tarhini picked up her third foul with 3 minutes, 46 seconds still remaining in the second quarter.

Stonington (14-6) took the lead for good shortly thereafter, although Bauman, who finished with 14 points, hit the last two shots of the first half to pull the Vikings (13-8) within 22-21.

But Stonington scored the first seven points of the third quarter, capped by a three-point play by Arruda, and chasing the Bears gradually wore on East Lyme.

Hall hit a 3-point field goal with 6.6 seconds left in the third quarter for Stonington and the Bears again scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter as their lead grew to 40-29.

Arruda and Kate Johnson each added 10 points for Stonington. Arruda allowed Bauman just four points after halftime.

"Her main shot is a 3-pointer, so (at first) I was stopping the 3-pointer and allowing the drives because I knew my teammates were there for me," Arruda said of guarding Bauman. "It's better than backing off and having her shoot an easy 3-pointer in my face."

"No. 23 (Bauman) is a good player," Solar said. "Miranda is our best defensive player and she gave her a run for her money. Miranda is probably one of the hardest working kids I know. We typically use her on the best player."

Stonington outscored East Lyme 25-14 in the second half, 14-6 in the fourth quarter.

It was the second time Stonington topped East Lyme this season, winning 57-47 in overtime on Jan. 23.

"No excuses, but we've played 21 games, two with our top seven all playing," Fiorillo said of East Lyme. "I thought my girls played really, really hard tonight. I'm not displeased. The Stonington guards are real polished. Give Stonington a lot of credit."

Arruda said the Bears don't mind the upcoming matchup with New London, even though New London is the top-ranked team in the state, unbeaten at 21-0 and the defending ECC Division I tournament and Class LL defending champion.

Stonington, which scrimmaged New London in the preseason, will head to the Class M tournament after the ECC tournament.

"It's all about practice," Arruda said of coming back with two straight victories after the disappointing Woodstock loss. "Even if the drill isn't our favorite drill, it's going to help us. She'll put seven players on defense and five on offense to help us prepare. We keep each other up."

"I just thought the kids came out with a lot of energy and stuck with their defense," said Solar, who is 399-184 with two state championship in 26 seasons at Stonington. "... It's tournament time. You've got to beat people. You've got to work hard."


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