Third-quarter surge sends Whalers to ECC Div. I semifinals
New London — There are glimpses of Whaler teams past from this Whaler team of the present that suggest another banner is certainly possible in 2023, added to the already crowded walls of Conway Gym.
Example: The 16-0 run in the third quarter that ended East Lyme’s season Thursday night, turning New London’s six-point lead at the time into a more comfortable ending that sent the Whalers to the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I Tournament semifinals.
“Sometimes we start out slow,” sophomore Devan Williams was saying after the 69-50 victory, “and we can’t hit shots. But once we get it going, we're tough to stop.”
Second-seeded New London (17-4) advanced to Saturday's semifinals and will play No. 3 Fitch at 4 p.m. at the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse in Waterford. Fitch defeated No. 6 Woodstock 63-41 in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Williams led New London with 22 points while sophomore Da’Shaun Phillips had 19 and freshman Xavier Goode scored 13.
Note from previous paragraphs: Williams and Phillips are sophomores, while Goode is a freshman.
“We’re a young team,” New London coach Craig Parker said. “Sometimes we play that way. Other times, we play with bursts of energy.”
New London’s run came via pressure defense, blocked shots (senior Richard Taylor had two) and accurate three-point shooting. If bursts like this are more consistent …
“We talked to the team after the Hillhouse game,” Parker said, alluding to a loss from December in New Haven. “It was an early season game, but we told them that night we thought they had what it takes to win a state championship.”
Parker said he’s made such speeches before, remembering a similar scenario from his first season as head coach in 1995. New London upset Trinity Catholic in the finals later that year.
“We have to stay focused, play with passion and play with a sense that every game could be our last,” Parker said. “Simply play the game hard.”
Jaylen Hannans led the Vikings with 14 points.
East Lyme was the defending ECC Division I Tournament champion, going on a three-game run a year ago that earned the Vikings the title at Mohegan Sun.
The seventh-seeded Vikings finished this season 6-15.