New London, Bacon advance to ECC Division I girls' basketball final
Plainfield — New London coach Holly Misto was asked about her team's pace of play Saturday night, especially the first quarter, when the Whalers jumped out to a 19-2 lead over East Lyme, scoring the game's first 16 points.
"Did you like watching it?" Misto asked. "Then we like playing it."
"We ran the floor really well tonight," New London senior Xaryia Melendez said. "We upped it up a lot. The energy was very high. Yes."
Melendez finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds as top-seeded New London got another step closer to a third straight Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I girls' basketball tournament title with a 60-34 victory over No. 5 East Lyme at Plainfield High School.
The Whalers (20-2) will meet No. 3 Bacon Academy in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Norwich Free Academy. That game will follow the Division II championship game between No. 3 Montville and No. 5 Windham at 5:30.
Bacon (18-4) advanced with a 44-40 victory over No. 2 Stonington in the first game of the Division I semifinal doubleheader, getting five of six free throws from junior Cassidy LaSaracina in the final 14.3 seconds against the Bears. Stonington led through three quarters.
For New London, ranked second in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll, tireless freshman guard Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick scored nine points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer, and Melendez, a senior forward, had six.
Bland-Fitzpatrick scored on a pair of putbacks and Melendez made it three in a row as the Whalers took a 14-0 lead. Jayden Burns scored on the front end of a fast break, pulling up for a jump shot and getting the roll, as New London came at the Vikings in waves.
"I don't think we could have played much better in the first quarter," Misto said.
"We play so many games, you think we would get tired," Melendez said. "We had so much energy in the game. I wasn't sure (coming into the game) how our energy was. But we were crisp."
Melendez said the team loves to run the floor, always knowing that there's an opportunity to receive a dynamic pass at the front end of the fast break or get an offensive rebound.
There's seemingly never not a New London player trailing on a fast break.
"There shouldn't be nobody there," Melendez said. "If there isn't, it's a problem."
Bland-Fitzpatrick added 15 points for New London and Spencer Roman had 10. Tai Pagan finished with 10 rebounds. Burns had team highs of five steals and four assists.
The Whalers led 33-18 at halftime and 44-28 after three quarters.
Sophie Dubreuil finished with 14 points and Megan Bauman 10 for East Lyme (13-9).
For Bacon, making their first ECC championship game appearance since 2011, it was the second win over Stonington (17-5) this week, as the teams matched up in their regular-season finale Monday in Colchester. Bacon won that game 56-53.
Stonington led by as many as seven points in this one, 27-20 on a free throw by Kate Johnson with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter, and the Bears held onto a 29-26 lead through the end of the third.
Kellie Nudd (11 points, 7 rebounds) scored to start the fourth quarter for Bacon, however, and Bridget Anderson followed with a 3-point field goal to give the Bobcats their first lead at 31-29.
Stonington tied the game three times thereafter, at 31 on a steal and a layup by Miranda Arruda, at 33 on a drive by Johnson and at 39 when Aliza Bell converted both ends of a one-and-one.
Bacon pulled ahead 41-39 on two free throws by LaSaracina. Johnson hit the front end of a one-and one for Stonington to pull within 41-40 and Bell got the rebound on the second. A tie-up gave Stonington the ball out of bounds with 5.7 seconds to play.
Stonington turned the ball over on the inbounds, though, and the Bears immediately fouled LaSaracina, who hit one free throw. She got her own rebound on the second shot and was fouled again, this time sinking both to seal the victory.
Johnson had 11 points and Bell 10 rebounds for Stonington.
ECC AWARD WINNERS / GIRLS' BASKETBALL
Following is a list of the 2018-19 Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' basketball award winners:
First team: Xaryia Melendez (New London), Spencer Roman (New London), Tai Pagan (New London), Sophie Dubreuil (East Lyme), Jenissa Varela (NFA).
Honorable mention: Megan Bauman (East Lyme), Heather Converse (Woodstock), Sarah Ericson (NFA), Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick (New London), Jayden Burns (New London).
Sportsmanship: Nadia Tarhini (East Lyme), DaJah Uzzle (New London), Carsen Keith (NFA), Linda St. Laurent (Woodstock).
Scholar-athlete: Katie Durkee (East Lyme), Spencer Roman (New London), Errien Williams (NFA), Rachel Lambert (Woodstock).
First team: Aliza Bell (Stonington), Kellie Nudd (Bacon Academy), Miranda Arruda (Stonington), Kate Johnson (Stonington), Julianna Bonilla (Waterford).
Honorable mention: Nyseanah Ishmael (Fitch), Charlotte Carney (Fitch), Katie Krupansky (Ledyard), Bridget Anderson (Bacon), Gaby Kramer (Waterford).
Sportsmanship: Cassidy LaSaracina (Bacon), Alyssa Virtue (Fitch), Miranda Chesnut (Ledyard), Zoe Ribeiro (Stonington), Lili Stoddard (Waterford).
Scholar-athlete: Taylor Rochette (Bacon), Mikayla Charles-Haley (Fitch), Tajeah Winston (Ledyard), Izzy Yarnall (Stonington), Jessica Nadeau (Waterford).
First team: Madison Kelley (Plainfield), Cecilia Hunter (Windham), Hannah Clarke (Griswold), Trinity Angel (Killingly), J'kyrah Johnson (Plainfield).
Honorable mention: Olivia Bessette (Plainfield), Nicole Peralta (Windham), Sonja Matheson (Griswold), Sidney Pankowski (Lyman Memorial), Emma Carpenter (Killingly).
Sportsmanship: Sydney Hanley (Griswold), Prachi Patel (Killingly), Nicolette Cordy (Lyman), Sophie Mercer (Plainfield), Adalyse Gonzalez (Windham).
Scholar-athlete: Sydney Hanley (Griswold), Prachi Patel (Killingly), Mackenzie Cook (Lyman), Chloe Lapierre (Plainfield), Cecilia Hunter (Windham).
First team: Kayleigh Lyons (Putnam), Lauren Ramos (Tourtellotte), Emily Nelson (St. Bernard), Maya Hillman (Montville), Savannah Galluci (Wheeler).
Honorable mention: Lauren Velazquez (Montville), Molly McKeon (Putnam), Samantha Caster (Wheeler), Abby St. Martin (Putnam), Kara Beaupre (Montville).
Sportsmanship: Haley Kerwin (Montville), Lauren Blackmar (Putnam), Lindsey Clement (St. Bernard), Mary Steglitz (Tourtellotte), Daniela Roy (Wheeler).
Scholar-athlete: Kara Beaupre (Montville), Morgan Blackmar (Putnam), Emily Nelson (St. Bernard), Ashley Morin (Tourtellotte), Savannah Galluci (Wheeler).