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New London hands No. 7 NFA first loss 62-60 on Warren's buzzer-beater

Norwich — New London has proven itself to be tougher than shoe leather this week.

The Whalers also proved that Norwich Free Academy isn’t going to run away with the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' basketball title, either.

New London trailed the unbeaten Wildcats by nine points with over two minutes left in regulation with senior sharpshooter Rhodia Perry on the bench nursing an ankle injury.

No matter. The Whalers fought back with freshman Savahn Warren making a putback at the buzzer as New London beat NFA 62-60.

It was the seventh straight win for New London (7-1, 2-1) after a season-opening division loss at East Lyme.

“(I’m) just working hard,” Warren said. “That’s what I do. I’m always going to jump up for the board. I happened to get the putback to win the game.”

Asked how New London was able to win down 58-49 with 2 minutes, 22 seconds remaining and getting one last chance with 2.7 seconds left in regulation, Warren said, “I don’t know.”

Freshman Da’Shaun Phillips had 17 points for New London and Perry and Warren both scored 14. Coby Smith added nine rebounds and Marvelt Fleurijeune had eight rebounds.

Javen Foster had 12 points and 10 rebounds for NFA (9-1, 2-1), ranked seventh in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 poll.

Austin Cannon and Tony Williams both added 14 points and three steals for the Wildcats.

Smith’s 3-pointer and Warren’s putback tied the game at 60 with 40 seconds left.

New London got the ball back on a rebound by its own basket with 2.7 seconds left.

Phillips somehow got free past halfcourt on the inbounds play, got the cross-court pass and missed a jumper as he was going out-of-bounds.

Warren grabbed his 11th and final rebound and put the ball up-and-in.

The Whalers celebrated, then held their breath as the officials conferred about the play for about a minute before ruling that the basket was good.

“It was helter-skelter,” New London head coach Craig Parker said. “The play was designed for (Phillips) to get the ball. I guess it worked out.

“He was going to come off a curl, take two dribbles and shoot it. The pass was a little long. I thought he did a great job catching up with the ball to be honest with you. ... (Phillips and Warren are) our two freshmen.”

It was the second wild win of the week for New London. Smith made a three-point play with two-tenths of a second left in overtime to beat Stonington on Tuesday, 74-73.

"It is what it is," NFA coach Dave Cornish said. "We put ourselves in that situation. We took way too many 3-pointers. If we're hitting, that's one thing. We weren't hitting tonight. And our guards are some of the best in the league, so we can get to the cup at will if we want to, but we settled for too many threes."

NFA had been running wild through the ECC with division wins over Fitch (76-60, Dec. 18) and East Lyme (82-65, Jan. 8). It also thumped Waterford, 82-57, on Dec. 23.

"I've never been a guy or a coach who says that we need to lose to get us back on track," Cornish said. "I think this is one of those times where we have to start getting back to the drawing board and playing team basketball.

"We had six assists tonight with the guards that we have. We had 25 assists on Monday (a 91-59 rout over Killingly) and we had six tonight. Something's wrong with that. We've got to do a better job playing team basketball, that's all."

NFA also made just 12 of 25 free throws.

It was a painful win for the Whalers. Perry injured his left ankle with 4:25 left in the third quarter and played sparingly in the fourth before sitting out the final 3:25.

Parker was also knocked down by his team during the postgame celebration and had to be helped out of the gym.

It looked like the Wildcats were going to blow New London out of the gym early as they went ahead, 12-1, with over three minutes left in the first quarter.

The Whalers fought back with Smith making a three in the closing seconds to give his team an 18-17 first-quarter lead.

“They never gave up,” Parker said. “They gutted it out without our leading scorer (Perry) for the last quarter-and-a-half-or-more. It was just a really good win for us especially because they jumped on us early and made us look like we were a middle school team the first few minutes of the game.

“Oh, my goodness. We hung tough and we came back, and we gutted it out.”

n.griffen@theday.com

 New London’s Savahn Warren fouls NFA’s Aldon Dawson (12) in ECC Div. I boys basketball action Friday, January 14, 2021 at Alumni Gym in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
New London’s Savahn Warren fouls NFA’s Aldon Dawson (12) in ECC Div. I boys basketball action Friday, January 14, 2021 at Alumni Gym in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

NFA New London boys basketball photo gallery

For more photos from the NFA New London boys basketball game click here.

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