New London girls make it a half a dozen (ECC titles), beating NFA 54-38

Norwich — There are no players or coaches in common with what is now six straight Eastern Connecticut Conference divisional championships for the New London High School girls' basketball team.

But if New London senior Spencer Roman had to identify what has been consistent about the last six seasons?

"We come from a humble personality," said Roman, who not only has four ECC titles in her varsity career, but two ECC tournament championships, a Class LL state championship and the state's No. 1 ranking on several occasions.

"We've had talented players, but we know we're beatable. We know we need each other."

New London, ranked second in the GameTimeCT Top 10 poll, scored the game's first 10 points Thursday on the way to a 54-38 victory over ECC Division I rival Norwich Free Academy, which allowed the Whalers to clinch yet another title.

The Whalers (16-2, 5-0) have two games remaining in the regular season, one Saturday against nonconference opponent Cromwell and one remaining league game Tuesday against East Lyme, before beginning defense of their ECC Division I tournament title.

Roman, who finished with a team-high eight assists against NFA (9-10, 2-3), said she was given a compliment recently by a player from another team who said she wished her team was as close-knit as the Whalers.

"I grew up in a family of boys," Roman said. "It's great having them (as sisters)."

"We fight like sisters," fellow New London senior Da'Jah Uzzle said with a laugh, adding her reasoning for what is now longstanding success for the Whalers. "I would say teamwork ... as long as we work well together. If someone's having a good day, we tell them 'good job.' If someone's having a bad day, we give them love.

"I've had bad days and as soon as you walk into the gym, it's basketball only."

Tai Pagan finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals for New London and Jayden Burns had 11 points and three steals. Freshman Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds and Uzzle and Xaryia Melendez had seven points each.

New London, coached for the last five seasons by Holly Misto — five-for-five in her pursuit of ECC championship banners — scored 11 straight points in the third quarter against NFA, lengthening the Whalers' lead to 43-19.

Pagan started that scoring spree with a spin move and a bank shot, Roman hit two free throws and Bland-Fitzpatrick scored and was fouled. Melendez got an offensive rebound off the errant free throw and was also fouled, sinking another free throw, followed by two straight baskets inside.

The Whalers led 45-21 after three quarters.

New London and NFA met for the first time this season on Saturday, with New London winning that one 55-29 to forge at least a tie for the division title. After that game, NFA coach Bill Scarlata called the Whalers "bigger, stronger, more athletic."

"The standards and the expectations are consistent," Roman said of the Whalers' mentality. "Every game, we take one at a time, that's our mantra. I don't even know who we play next. But we have goals."

Jenissa Varela finished with 10 points for NFA, all in the fourth quarter.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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