Comeback gives Waterford girls a 51-50 win over Stonington in ECC Division II
Waterford — Mia Chiappone is a sophomore, but more confident than you might expect.
"I wanted to win the game," Chiappone said late Tuesday night. "I wanted the ball in my hands. I love having the ball at the end of the game. I want to get the ball to my teammates so they can score. I love to distribute the ball; I know my teammates can make shots."
And yet these shots were Chiappone's.
Trailing by 10 points headed into the fourth quarter of an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II game against Stonington which would decide the team that would have the best chance to catch first-place Bacon Academy for the division lead, Chiappone had 11 of her 14 points as Waterford came back to win 51-50.
Chiappone hit a long jump shot from the left side to tie the game 46-46 with 2 minutes, 12 seconds left. Then, after Stonington's Zoe Ribeiro had given her team a 50-46 lead with 1:26 to play, Chiappone made the play of the game ... and then the play of the game again ... and yet again.
Chiappone got the ball out ahead on the fast break after a Stonington turnover to pull Waterford within 50-48 and an instant later stole the Bears' inbounds pass and converted it to tie the score at 50-50 with 50 seconds remaining.
After a Stonington miss at the other end, Chiappone was fouled and made one of two free throws with 32.4 seconds on the clock to give the Lancers their winning margin.
Stonington missed a pair of free throws with 13.1 seconds remaining while finishing 10-for-23 overall from the foul line. The Bears, however, gobbled up 56 rebounds, which helped them build the lead in the first place.
"That came from within; it was from them," Waterford coach Dan Still, whose team is 6-3 overall, 3-1 in Division II, said of the comeback. "When (Milena Walker) hit the 3, I didn't realize we were only down two. Our best game has been the fourth quarter ... consistently.
"I thought they kept fighting. They believed in themselves. Mia was teriffic. She's always been a confident person. She's made great strides. She just read it."
Chiappone said she wasn't covering a specific Stonington player on the theft of the inbounds pass.
"I just went for the ball," she said. "... (Still) told us to just keep working hard. I knew this team could pull it out. I didn't even look at the scoreboard."
Waterford led 14-12 after one quarter on a buzzer-beater by Gaby Kramer, but Stonington flipped that at halftime, leading 30-23 behind 13 points from Ribeiro.
Ironically, it was after Ribeiro picked up her third foul with 6:16 still to go in the second quarter — and Bears coach Paulla Solar elected to leave her in — that Ribeiro picked up steam. She hit a 3-pointer to push the Stonington lead to 27-21 and made one of two free throws with 40.6 seconds to go in the half to give the Bears a seven-point advantage.
Ribeiro, who finished with 24 points and 20 rebounds, has been a key cog for the Bears at guard this season after they lost All-ECC guards Kate Johnson and Miranda Arruda from a year ago and looked to be inexperienced in that domain.
"She's a great player," Solar said of Ribeiro, a senior who has averaged 19.3 points per game this season. "You've got to remember her size. She's only about 5-7. She's pretty much the glue for our team. (After the third foul), she defensively had to play differently, but she is our glue."
Stonington (4-4, 1-3) led 39-29 after three quarters and got the lead to 13 after Anne Drago hit one of two free throws with 6:20 to play.
Waterford scored 13 straight to tie it, however, started by a 3-pointer from Anna Schleck, meanwhile Stonington was 0-for-5 from the free throw line during that span. Walker's 3-pointer with 3:55 to go made it 44-42 and Chiappone scored off an offensive rebound to make it 44-44.
Tori LoPresto scored on a shovel pass from a tumbling Ribeiro to put the Bears back up 46-44 before Chiappone struck once again to tie it.
"We've been having trouble with turnovers all year," Stonington's Solar said. "We played great defensively. We had great rebounding. Free throws killed us. ... We've had three games (recently) where we dug ourselves a hole, so I'm really happy with the way they played today. They were nice and aggressive. Give Waterford credit. They kept coming back and coming back."
"This puts us in a better position in the division," said Still, in his first year coaching the Lancers. "It's a big confidence-builder for our kids."
Walker finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Waterford. Sophia Bell added 12 points and 14 rebounds for Stonington and Katie McNeil also had 14 rebounds.
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