Stonington girls come from behind to top Bacon in key ECC Division II matchup
Stonington — The coaches, Stonington High School's Paulla Solar (395 girls' basketball victories) and Bacon Academy's Dave Shea (434), made sure there were an overabundance of X's and O's during Tuesday night's exciting-to-watch Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II standoff.
In a game which took on a frenetic pace — as did the previous game between the teams played in Colchester on Jan. 10 — the teams changed offenses and defenses with frequency, sometimes during electrically charged timeouts and sometimes on the fly, until Stonington came up with a 58-50, come-from-behind win.
Stonington, 10-5 overall, 5-2 in Division II, trailed by 11 at halftime, 34-23, but pulled within 44-40 after three quarters to set up a wild finish.
That gives Stonington, Bacon and Waterford each two losses in the division, one game behind first-place Woodstock Academy, which has one loss.
"It comes down to the players executing. Coaches can do a lot of different things, but the kids have to execute," Shea said. "That zone (Stonington played) gave us trouble. We did well against the man-to-man in the first half, but the zone hurt us in the second half."
"In practice, we go in these situations where she'll randomly call out an offense or randomly call out a defense," Stonington senior guard Kate Hall said. "We take what she has to say during the timeouts."
It was Hall who made perhaps the game's biggest play with 2 minutes, 19 seconds remaining, hitting a 3-point field goal from the left-hand corner that gave the Bears their first lead of the game at 51-50. Hall kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound before she got the ball back and let it fly.
The Bears then accomplished something they've struggled with this season, going 7-for-10 from the free throw line down the stretch, with Hall going 5-for-6 and Kate Johnson and Aliza Bell each adding one, meanwhile holding Bacon scoreless for the final 2:44.
Hall, who battled through a box-and-one defense for much of the game, had 18 points and five steals (14 points in the second half), Miranda Arruda 13 points and 11 rebounds and Johnson 12 points and eight rebounds. Bell also had 11 rebounds for Stonington, which overcame shooting 10-for-43 (23.3 percent) in the first half to shoot a much more efficient 12-for-24 (50 percent) in the second half.
Kellie Nudd led Bacon (9-5, 4-2) with a 20-point effort.
"It was bad," Hall said of the first-half shooting performance. "The up side is we weren't flat. We had intensity."
"That was a good team. It's a great win for us," Solar said. "A lot of times (this season), we had a hard time getting over the hump. ... Two things that were going to help us win, that was the boards and defense. That's what we kind of fall back on. If not for that, we could have been buried then and there."
Stonington trailed by as many as 13 when Bacon's Taylor Rochette scored to begin the third quarter to make it 36-23. But Johnson caught fire with seven points in the third, just long enough for Shea to remove the box-and-one on Hall.
Hall created her own space for a shot off the dribble with 2:08 left in the quarter, pulling the Bears within three at 40-37, and Stonington kept its offensive rhythm, getting its final points of the quarter on a drive by Johnson.
Solar's team crept within two early in the fourth quarter on another basket by Johnson, trading baskets with Bacon until Stonington strung two together with a jump shot by Izzy Yarnall and a layup by Arruda coming out of a timeout, tying the game at 48 with 3:17 to play.
Molly Kelly then scored Bacon's final points with 2:44 to play on a jump shot. But that was before Hall's game-changing 3-pointer from what she would later call her favorite spot on the floor.
"I love the way Kate Hall played today. She dealt with a box-and-one and fought through it," said Solar, who praised Hall for being able to drive to the basket or shoot from beyond the arc. "She kept everybody on their toes. That's what I like about Kate, when she puts all her magic together."
"It was partly we want to beat Bacon and partly, 'We just need to do this,'" Hall said of the timely execution. "Missing free throws, missing layups, this is stuff we should not be doing. I wanted to get the heck away from whatever that was."
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