No. 2 New London plays its way back into Class LL quarters
New London — Spencer Roman was about to begin her well-deserved postgame interview Friday night when her coach, armed with a wry grin, began speaking instead.
"She's like me," New London High School coach Holly Misto said. "She doesn't want anybody to score against us, not even one basket."
No. 18 Amity leading scorer Jillian Martin, to whom Roman was assigned, scored three baskets in total, all while Roman chased her around like Tommy Lee Jones did to Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive."
As in: all over the place.
Roman's diligence and her teammates' efficiency led the second-ranked Whalers to a 59-36 win in the second round of the Class LL state tournament at Conway Gym. The Whalers will play their final home game of the season next Thursday (7 p.m.) in the quarterfinals against No. 7 Newington.
"Coach had set goals before the season and mine was to not allow anyone I'm guarding get 10 points," Roman said. "As a captain, I know I have to be accountable. Lead by example. My dad and I watched film on (Martin, who finished with seven points). I knew she was a shooter."
Martin hit a 3-pointer with Roman briefly on the bench in the third quarter, helping Amity turn a 20-point deficit into 11 at 39-28. Roman quickly reentered the game, scored to push the lead to 13 and the Spartans never recovered.
"You need that one player who takes anybody scoring against her very personally," Misto said. "Spencer does that. She'll dive into a wall if she has to."
Roman finished with eight points and seven assists.
Xaryia Melendez led the Whalers with 17 points, while Tai Pagan had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Jayden Burns and Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick had 10 apiece.
So now the Whalers reach the point of the season — the quarterfinals — that resulted in last season's ending. New London, the unbeaten defending Class LL champ at the time, lost a home game to Enfield that left a sour taste after what had been a great season.
Did the Whalers learn anything they can apply Thursday night?
"We just didn't play our game last year," Roman said. "I think we let the refs that night dictate a lot. We didn't respond well. We broke down. This year will be different. We just need to be focused and we'll be fine."
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