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Ailing Whalers show some resolve in 60-53 win over Vikings

New London — New London avenged a defeat from earlier this season and scored a confidence-building victory on Friday night.

Missing three players, the shorthanded Whalers relied on their talented freshmen, grit and determination in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys' basketball game.

The final score: New London 60, East Lyme 53.

"That was a really, really good program win," coach Craig Parker said. "We were down three starters and they beat us in the first game. That was a good win for us. Absolutely."

East Lyme won the first meeting, 63-56, on Dec. 16.

This time, the Whalers rode the inspired play of freshmen Da'Shaun Phillips and Savahn Warren, who scored 22 and 17 points, respectively. Senior Anthony Martinez added 10 points.

New London improved to 8-2 overall, 3-1 in the division.

Junior Josh Hickson also played a significant role, keeping offensive possessions alive by battling under the basket for rebounds and helping contain East Lyme junior Gavin O'Brien, who finished with 24 points but just nine in the second half.

"He did a heck of a job," Parker said of Hickson. "He battled out there and kept balls alive for us. He did a nice job. Our defense in the second half made the difference. We worked really hard on defense."

The fiercely competitive, tight game turned in New London's favor near the end of the third quarter.

With the score deadlocked at 38-all, Warren converted a tough layup to put the Whalers ahead for good with six seconds left in the third. The basket started an 11-2 spurt.

Hickson scored inside off a nice pass from Phillips to build a four-point edge early in the fourth quarter.

After Will Anglin scored for East Lyme, New London kept the pressure on. Phillips made a nice move and hit a foul line jumper. Then Warren converted a driving layup and buried a 3-pointer for a 49-40 edge with two minutes, 55 seconds remaining to give the Whalers their biggest lead.

From there, the Vikings got no closer than six.

The Whalers secured the win by sinking 11 of their last 12 free throws in the final minute. They won despite playing without Rhodia Perry, Coby Smith and Sean Raymond.

"Kids stepped up for us, no doubt about it," Parker said. "Both our freshmen played well. Marvelt Fleurijeune did a nice job defensively and made big foul shots for us down the stretch. It was just a good overall team win."

East Lyme dipped to 6-5 overall, 2-1 in the league.

"We beat ourselves," East Lyme coach Jeff Bernardi said. "There were numerous four-point swings where we missed layups and then they scored or got threes. That killed us. It gave them belief. They've got a young team that's talented."

g.keefe@theday.com

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