Dubreuil paces East Lyme girls to a berth in ECC semifinals, beating Fitch 43-29
East Lyme — Sophie Dubreuil's 3-point attempt was off — as a few were Thursday night with her recovering from a quick bout with the flu earlier this week — missing just about everything, when suddenly a body came flying into the picture on the right side of the rim.
It was Dubreuil, East Lyme High School's senior point guard, who gathered the ball and scored, off-balance, on a putback.
It's what East Lyme missed at the beginning of the season with Dubreuil sidelined due to a high ankle sprain: someone with the innate basketball ability to make a difficult play look easy.
She finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four assists Thursday as fourth-seeded East Lyme, which began the season 0-6, beat No. 5 Fitch 43-29 in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament to clinch a spot in Saturday's semifinal round.
"The two things Sophie provides us, one is just the leadership she brings to us," East Lyme coach P.J. Zipser said. "The other is just the calmness, just that calmness in her and the other players.
"Just her determination. She's one of the toughest kids I think I'll ever coach. The 0-6 start just speaks to (what she brings to the team). ... She never gives up on a play."
The Vikings (10-11), will play top-seeded Norwich Free Academy (17-4) in the semifinals beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at NFA. NFA beat No. 9 Ledyard 54-24 Thursday night. No. 2 New London will play No. 3 Bacon Academy in the first game of the semifinal doubleheader at 3:30 p.m.
Perhaps East Lyme could be playing just well enough to serve as a pain for teams in the postseason, as it was to Fitch on Thursday night?
Since winning their first game on Jan. 4 against Woodstock Academy, the Vikings are 10-5 with all five losses — to NFA, New London twice, Notre Dame and Newtown — to teams currently ranked seventh or higher in the GameTimeCT Top 10 poll.
"I got off to a slow start," Dubreuil said of her comeback from the ankle injury. "Slow as in getting my foot better and slow as in we kind of didn't know what we were missing."
Instead of it being a lost season, though, East Lyme, led by its six seniors, got better.
"We added the 'we care factor,'" said Dubreuil, who scored her 1,000th career point on Jan. 24 also against Fitch with a 31-point performance that night.
Speaking of a slow start, however, Fitch led East Lyme 7-6 after the first quarter Thursday.
East Lyme held an 18-16 advantage at halftime and it was tied 20-20 with 6 minutes, 3 seconds to play in the third quarter on a basket by Fitch's Alyssa Virtue.
Dubreuil changed that with a 3-pointer from behind a screen and went on to score 10 points in the third, closing the scoring in that quarter with a halfcourt steal she turned into a layup for a more comfortable 32-24 lead.
Julia Fenn added 10 points and seven rebounds for East Lyme, Nadia Tarhini six points and 10 rebounds and Camryn Price five rebounds and five steals.
Rita Sefransky scored eight points for Fitch (14-7), which was missing 5-foot-11 junior center Charlotte Carney due to an ankle injury, and Frankie Foster had seven.
"Yesterday in practice, I probably said it about a million times," Zipser said. "We want to play fast (Thursday). They're going to play a zone (defense), so we want to beat them down the floor so they can't get set up. ... At halftime, I said, 'Listen, I said it yesterday.' I tried to will it into existence."
Dubreuil went 0-for-2 from the free throw line, gesturing with disgust, just before leaving the game with 53.1 seconds remaining, her first time not on the floor.
"That wasn't my favorite," Dubreuil said. "That's my biggest pet peeve."
But Dubreuil is anxious to get another shot at NFA. The Wildcats beat East Lyme to open the season, with Dubreuil still in a walking boot on the bench, 49-19. NFA won the second matchup between the two 52-34 on Jan. 16.
Said Dubreuil: "I'm excited to play them again."
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