Putnam girls top Montville in ECC Division II semis for coveted finals berth
Norwich — The game before, an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II quarterfinal win over Wheeler earlier this week, was Montville's best game of the season.
"I thought that was going to translate over," Montville girls' basketball coach Becky Alfonso was saying early Saturday afternoon.
But the fourth-seeded Indians didn't have a great deal of fortune come their way against top-seeded Putnam, with the teams vying for a berth in the championship game Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
First, Montville started in a zone defense. Putnam hit six 3-pointers.
Then the Indians switched things up. Putnam's 5-foot-11 junior center Abby St. Martin dominated the middle.
To start the second half, Montville leading scorer Maya Hillman collided with another player and took a head-butt to the nose, winding up in the emergency room.
And it was Putnam which earned the coveted trip to Mohegan Sun, 54-26.
The Clippers (19-3), who earned coach Mandi Hogan her 100th career victory, will meet No. 2 Killingly (17-5) in the championship game at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Killingly topped No. 3 Windham in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday at Norwich Free Academy, 45-30.
St. Martin had 20 points, 15 in the second half, and Kayleigh Lyons had 17 points, including three 3-pointers for Putnam. Hillman finished with nine points and 10 rebounds for Montville (10-12) and Alexis Michon added nine rebounds.
In a 57-35 win over Wheeler in Thursday's quarterfinals, Alexis DeLucia had 16 points and five steals for Montville, Hillman 15 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks and Michon 10 points and seven rebounds. It was the Indians' highest-scoring game of the season.
On Saturday, the teams traded leads three times in the first quarter. Montville pulled within 8-7 on a bank shot by DeLucia, but Lyons ended the quarter with a 3-pointer and an 11-7 advantage for Putnam.
Lyons added her third 3 of the game in the second quarter and Molly McKeon had two, as well, as the Clippers kept firing from the outside and took a 25-13 lead at halftime.
Alfonso said her team played a zone in a win last year over Putnam and also felt it was what the Indians were the best at going into Saturday's game.
"(At halftime), we changed some things. We tried to up the tempo a little bit," Alfonso said. "Then we lost our big girl (Hillman). It's hard to defend the girl inside without her. ... We play so much more calm when she's in there and I understand that."
Hillman was injured with 5 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third quarter and Montville trailing 27-17. Immediately, St. Martin scored on an offensive rebound and a few moments later she converted a three-point play.
Putnam stretched the lead to 38-22 after three quarters and added a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter, making it 45-22.
"I told them, 'Your shots are going to start falling,'" Alfonso said. "Well, they didn't."
"This is an incredible win for us," said Putnam's St. Martin. "We lost last year in the semifinals against Windham. This season has been so long. The environment (Tuesday) is going to be great."
In the opening game of the Division II semis, Trinity Angel had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Killingly, Sophia Moore 14 points and Ella Lach had nine rebounds, including six off the offensive glass. Hailey Cruz had 10 points and nine rebounds for Windham (12-10).
Killingly and Putnam split during the regular season. Killingly won 55-35 on Jan. 6 at Putnam and the Clippers won 47-33 Jan. 22 at Killingly.
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