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Stonington girls run to 51-46 victory over New London in ECC South

New London — The difference between Stonington and its biggest win of the season Tuesday night was the number of fast break points, as the Bears consistently excelled in an area of the game usually branded by New London ... in a game against New London.

But then the difference between Stonington and its biggest win of the season came down to a freshman, Cierra Bravar, standing on the free throw line with 14.2 seconds left for a one-and-one, the Bears leading by one point.

Bravar hit both foul shots, then two more with 3.2 seconds remaining, as Stonington toppled New London 51-46 in an Eastern Connecticut Conference South Division girls' basketball game.

Prior to the alteration of the league's divisions due to COVID-19, New London played in ECC Division I and Stonington in Division II, with New London sharing its seventh straight divisional crown during the 2020 regular season.

"I feel good," said Bravar, who swished all four free throws to finish with 14 points. "I feel like we came out here ready to play. We know how to play. We just came out here ready to play our best. We did it. We won."

Bravar, a 5-foot-1 guard who attended Ledyard Middle School and played basketball there, moved to Stonington and quickly proved herself on the basketball court, earning a starting role from the beginning of the season. She said she was confident on the free throw line.

"Yeah, I was," she said. "I thought, 'I've got to do this for my team.'"

Stonington (2-3) started with a 6-2 lead behind a fast break from Bravar before New London (3-2) went on an 8-0 run to take a 10-6 edge. New London led 14-11 after the first quarter, getting eight points from Nalyce Dudley, with senior Jayden Burns assisting three of Dudley's four baskets.

The lead would change 10 times, with Stonington up 25-23 at halftime on a polished post move by 6-1 senior center Sophia Bell with under a minute to play. The Bears, once again, clung to a 36-34 lead after three quarters.

New London led 32-29 on an offensive rebound by Jalene Johnson, but Stonington's Sophia Fernholz evened things with a 3-pointer for her first points of the game, making it 32-32 with 2:41 to play in the third.

Anne Drago, who tied for the team lead with Bravar with 14 points, sprinted down on a fast break to give Stonington the lead for good at 34-32 and Drago scored again on a wide open basket. New London's Dudley closed the margin to two entering the fourth quarter on a basket assisted by Burns.

But Stonington scored five straight points to start the final eight minutes, a free throw by Fernholz, a fast break by Drago and an inside move by Bell, to give the Bears a seven-point lead. As Stonington made shot after easy shot on the break, New London coach Tammy Millsaps said, the Bears, who converted 48.9% overall, seemed to gain confidence.

"That contributes to the offensive mindset and that's what happened to them," Millsaps said. "The game was won by them in transition and lost by us in transition. ... They're a solid team. We had a hard time guarding their post player (Bell). She played a real good game.

"That's where you build tough kids, when the game's on the line, when maybe you haven't played your best and it's a nip and tuck game and you figure out how to win. Stonington played better than us."

Bell added 11 points and six rebounds for Stonington and Ferholz contributed 13 rebounds. Dudley had 14 points and Burns 13 for New London.

Stonington interim coach Falecia Cabral said Bravar earned her time in the lineup.

"She was on the outdoor courts six, seven, eight hours a day (practicing before the season)," Cabral said. "I knew she could hang. Tori (LoPresto, Stonington point guard) is graduating this year and we want (Bravar) to go through game situations so she can be ready. The sky's the limit for her."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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