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Hillhouse gets the best of New London boys 54-40

New London — Any coach who wants to get their team better and/or prepare for the state tournament knows their schedule should include challenging out-of-conference competition.

The worst that can happen is you lose. The benefits outweigh that by far.

That philosophy is why the New London High School boys' basketball team took on a whopper of a non-league opponent on Thursday night — Hillhouse — the state's home office for the sport with a pedigree few programs across the state can match in any sport.

Hillhouse won 54-40, but the Whalers will be better for it in the long run.

"I told their head coach (Renard Sutton) prior to the game, and I told it to our kids — bottom line is that Hillhouse is basketball royalty — not just in the state of Connecticut but nationwide with what they've done here in the state of Connecticut ... their illustrious history," New London coach Craig Parker said. "I told their coach I felt very honored to have them visit us in our gym in a non-conference game."

Parker isn't one to give out compliments just for the heck of it. The Whalers (9-3) have been the kings of boys' basketball around these parts and few in the state can match their success (nine CIAC state titles).

Hillhouse (9-4) has won 24 CIAC titles in 34 championship appearances.

"(It's) one of the few high schools I'd consider an upgrade from coaching at New London," Parker said. "(It's) Hillhouse (and) Wilbur Cross as far as public schools go in Connecticut and nobody else. Everyone else for me would be a downgrade to coach except two programs like that in the city of New Haven."

Matthew Gibbs' driving layup gave the Academics a 4-3 lead with 5 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first quarter and they led the rest of the way.

Hillhouse led 24-13 at halftime. Nikai Brooks finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and Gibbs scored 13.

"They play with a lot of energy, in particular the first half, and they established a lead on us that we never recovered from," Parker said. "We got it down to six (24-18) at one point (with over five minutes left in the third quarter) but they were able to make some plays again. They came in here and were able to hold us off."

Savahn Warren had a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds for New London and fellow freshman Da'Shaun Phillips scored nine.

"I think what we can learn from this is we have to learn how to match a team's energy such as (Hillhouse's) if we run into a team like that again," Parker said. "I don’t think our energy level quite matched theirs tonight. Some of that is we haven't seen a team like that. They were pretty wiry and long and they're athletic. And it's what we expected form a Hillhouse team."

n.griffen@theday.com

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