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    Sunday, March 26, 2023

    Clinic of a second half sends No. 4 Whalers past No. 5 Fitch and into Division III semifinals

    New London — The scoreboard at halftime read Fitch 28, New London 28. This was an opportunity for New London coach Craig Parker to go equal parts philosopher and volcano on his team.

    “They heard a few things at halftime,” Parker said after the game, far happier after a 73-45 win that delivered the fourth-seeded Whalers to the CIAC Division III boys’ basketball semifinals. “But I also told the kids that this was the beauty of sports, how a team can come in here and outwork a more talented team.

    “I told (Fitch) coach (Charles) Silvan after the game that he did a great job with what he had. Fitch (missing two key players) battled to the end.”

    But it was the Whalers who survived a game that was measured as much early by first downs (22 combined fouls in the first half) as points.

    “A very physical game,” New London sophomore Da’Shaun Phillips said. “We had to overcome it and be physical back at them.”

    The teams combined for 44 fouls in the game.

    New London (20-6) will play No. 1 Bloomfield, a 74-61 winner over Newington, in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. Meanwhile, they bid adieu to Conway Gym for the year with arguably their best half of the season.

    “The bottom line is that we told them at halftime that if we keep playing this way, it’s Fitch going to the semis and not us,” Parker said.

    SaVahn Warren led the Whalers with 23 points and Phillips added 14. Perhaps more importantly, the Whalers welcomed back leading scorer Devan Williams to the floor in the third period. Williams missed most of the first half with foul trouble, leading to a disjointed offense.

    “Dev’s been our guy this year,” Parker said. “Probably averaging 25 points per game. We play with a certain comfort level when he’s out there.”

    Now the Whalers have reached the Final Four of Division III, seeking the program’s 10th state title. After playing Eastern Connecticut Conference rivals Stonington and Fitch this week, they play a less familiar, if not more talented Bloomfield, a member of the state top 10 most of the year.

    “Playing a team like Fitch, there are no tricks,” Phillips said. “They know what we’re going to do and we know what they’re going to do. We just had to go out and execute.”

    The fifth-seeded Falcons finish 18-6.


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