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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    Fitch rallies late to beat St. Paul in D-II second round game

    Groton — There was a little over a minute left in Wednesday night’s state tournament game and Fitch’s season was on the brink as the fifth-seeded Falcons were down four points to a St. Paul team playing anything like a No. 21 seed.

    Was the players and coaches nervous?


    “I was probably frustrated,” Fitch head coach Charles Silvan said. “I didn’t feel like we were playing as well as we could.”

    Fitch didn’t fold and scored the game’s final seven points, including a go-ahead three-point play by senior Mike Wagner, to give his team a 52-49 win over St. Paul in a CIAC Division III boys’ basketball second round game.

    St. Paul went ahead 49-45 with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining in the game before Wagner scored five straight points to put Fitch ahead for good.

    “(We had) a lot of blown opportunities,” Silvan said. “A lot of missed layups, unforced errors, to get us to that point.”

    Freshman Jayvon Robinson had 14 points and four rebounds for Fitch (18-5) and sophomore Peyton Green came off the bench and made four 3-pointers for 12 points.

    Senior Van Spruill added 10 points and four rebounds and senior Lorenzo Rivera had seven assists and four steals.

    Senior Jamie Leggett scored 21 for St. Paul (9-13). That included four straight free throws to give his team a 47-43 lead with 2:48 remaining.

    Wagner had scored just two points when he stepped to the free throw line with 1:07 left and his team trailing 49-45. He made both.

    Fitch’s defensive pressure forced St. Paul to call timeout after inbounding the ball.

    It inbounded again, this time by the Fitch bench, and freshman Raheem Carter and Wagner trapped the ball-handler with Carter knocking the ball loose.

    Wagner grabbed the ball and drove to the rim for a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw to put Fitch ahead to stay, 50-49, with 56.4 seconds remaining.

    “He’s a shooter for us,” Silvan said about Wagner. “The goal all year has been to motivate his activity. We feel like if we get increased activity, we’ll get better play and we’ll get a more consistent performance.”

    Rivera stole a bad St. Paul pass with 39 seconds left and Robinson made two free throws with seven seconds remaining for the game’s final points.

    “We try to encourage all of the players to increase their activity level because that’s what produces more consistent play, more consistent scoring,” Silvan said.

    Up next for Fitch — round three with old friend New London in Friday night’s quarterfinals. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Conway Gymnasium.

    Fourth-seeded New London dismantled No. 20 Stonington 87-59 in the second round.

    The Whalers beat Fitch during the regular season (60-52, Feb. 1) and in the semifinals of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament (58-54, Feb. 25).

    “We love it,” Silvan said about playing New London again. “The kids have been waiting for it. I don’t have to motivate the kids. As long as they hear the name ‘New London,’ they’re going to be ready to play.”


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