Whalers, Saints to meet for the ECC Division I championship
Waterford — Their first game this season drew more than 1,300 fans to Conway Gym, suggesting that this rivalry that dates back decades thrives again. And now their next rendition, maybe the biggest one yet, gets to play in The Big Room for the championship Tuesday night.
Second-seeded New London and No. 1 St. Bernard emerged from the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse with victories in Saturday’s semifinal round of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I boys’ basketball tournament.
They’ll meet in the finals Tuesday at Mohegan Sun Arena at 8 p.m.
The Whalers survived a late scare against No. 3 Fitch and won 58-54 before St. Bernard pulled away from No. 4 Windham, 59-45. The doubleheader drew 1,479 fans to the X.
“It feels great,” St. Bernard forward Ryan Outlow said, following his 18 points and 12 rebounds. “I’ve been praying the whole tournament and this feels amazing. All the different guys we have from all the different towns. It’s great to have a group who is winning.”
Ten of Outlow’s 18 points came from the free throw line. Frontcourt mate Amare Marshall scored 14 points, torturing Windham with foul line jumpers in the second half.
The Saints led by two at halftime and gradually pulled away. Travis Mangual led the Whippets, who figure to be a contender in the state Division IV Tournament, with 13 points.
New London nearly lost a 12-point lead late against Fitch, which rallied from a 48-36 deficit to within two with 50 seconds left. Zander Timmerman and J.J. Robinson made late threes to lead the Fitch charge before Devan Williams and Da’Shaun Phillips made late free throws to seal it.
“It was win or go home,” Williams said. “I had to make those. I missed four before that.”
Williams had 16 to lead the Whalers while freshman Xavier Goode had 12 and senior Richard Taylor had eight points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Robinson had 15 to lead the Falcons.
“That was a great effort by Fitch,” New London coach Craig Parker said. “Seeing the state (Division III) tournament seeds, we could meet them again in the quarterfinals. We really don’t want to have to do that.”
Before that, though, comes Tuesday night when the rivalry that used to be Harold Pressley against Greg Hall (among others) plays for a title in 2023.
“We’ll have a nice, relaxing practice on Monday,” Parker said. “The game (Tuesday) is for a championship. That should be self-motivating.”