Fitch rallies past New London to reach ECC Div. I semifinals

Fitch’s Shaun Morales (2) and Jonathan Cooper celebrate a foul during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s ECC Division I boys’ basketball tournament quarterfinal game in Groton. The fourth-seeded Falcons rallied to beat the No. 4 Whalers 49-40. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fitch’s Shaun Morales (2) and Jonathan Cooper celebrate a foul during the fourth quarter of Thursday’s ECC Division I boys’ basketball tournament quarterfinal game in Groton. The fourth-seeded Falcons rallied to beat the No. 4 Whalers 49-40. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Groton — These are the nights programs are built, the nights when one of those necessary, incremental steps happen.

Fitch High School not only avenged an early-season loss to a longtime rival Thursday night, but advanced to the Final Four of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' basketball tournament, rallying past New London, 49-40.

The fourth-seeded Falcons (12-8) will play in Saturday's second semifinal at 6 p.m. against top-seeded and defending champion Waterford at the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse. Theday.com will livestream both of Saturday's Division I semifinals (No. 3 Norwich Free Academy plays No. 7 Woodstock Academy at 4 p.m.).

And now Fitch is happily a part of the ECC's biggest day of basketball. The Falcons hadn't made the semifinals since the days Tom Doyle was coaching the program in the mid-2000s.

"We're happy to get back there, but really happy to have gotten the chance to play New London again," Fitch coach Charles Sylvan said. "They got us pretty good in New London earlier this season."

Sylvan alluded to New London's last-second win, thanks to Noah James' near-halfcourt buzzer beater.

This wasn't looking particularly promising for the Falcons, who had a scoring disorder most of the game. Then came the middle of the third period when junior Adriel Atod crashed to the floor violently after a collision. Atod lay motionless for a while and was taken away via ambulance. He had full movement of his body parts as he left the gym.

Fitch had just tied the game at 30 with 7:39 left when Ajia Brown, its leading scorer in the game, left with his fourth foul. What happened with Brown on the bench brought a smile to Sylvan's face.

Six different players scored for the Falcons, who outscored New London 19-10 the rest of the way. Kiev Lucas, Shaun Morales, Lashier Brown, John Cooper, Yahbriel Roman and Seamus Greaves all contributed key points. Roman's follow with 2:41 left gave Fitch the lead for good.

"One of the things we keep trying to preach to the kids is that if we don't do this together, we won't do it at all," Sylvan said. "It was nice to say so many of them step up like that."

Greaves led Fitch with 11 points and Lucas had 10.

James led the No. 5 Whalers (8-13) with 11 points.

"Chop (New London coach Craig Parker) and I are in the same boat," Sylvan said. "Playing a lot of young kids. I like what they're doing. They're going to be really good."

Fitch, meanwhile, gets to play a team to which it suffered convincing double-digit losses this season in the semifinals.

"We want to play better against them," Sylvan said. "We're looking forward to the challenge."

m.dimauro@theday.com

Fitch's Kiev Lucas and New London's Tayeshawn Cunningham-Pemberton dive for a loose ball during the Falcons' 49-40 win in Thursday night's ECC Division I boys' basketball tournament quarterfinals in Groton. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fitch's Kiev Lucas and New London's Tayeshawn Cunningham-Pemberton dive for a loose ball during the Falcons' 49-40 win in Thursday night's ECC Division I boys' basketball tournament quarterfinals in Groton. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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