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    Monday, April 15, 2024

    Windham tops Stonington for the title 52-38 in an ECC Division II rematch

    Windham’s Hailey Flores (2) and teammates celebrate their win over with head coach during the ECC Girls Basketball Division II Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday, February 20, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Leah DePerry (10) attempts to move past Windham’s Jaelize Rivera (5) during the ECC Girls Basketball Division II Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday, February 20, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Windham’s Alyssa Lebiszczak (20) celebrates their win over Stonington with family during the ECC Girls Basketball Division II Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday, February 20, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Windham’s Zoee Robins (10) throws a pass past Stonington’s defense during the ECC Girls Basketball Division II Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday, February 20, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Windham’s Alyssa Lebiszczak (20) fights past Stonington’s Presley Smith (12) and Melanie Verbridge (21) during the ECC Girls Basketball Division II Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday, February 20, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Adilyn Risley (14) fights Windham’s Jaida Green (22) and Aniya Jenkins (3) for a ball during the ECC Girls Basketball Division II Championships at Mohegan Sun Arena Tuesday, February 20, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Mohegan — There’s history between Windham and Stonington in girls’ basketball, a ton of it recent history.

    Windham freshman Zoee Robins hasn’t been as much a part of that as some of her teammates. The Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II tournament championship game Tuesday night was her first time playing at Mohegan Sun Arena, in fact.

    Then she was named Most Outstanding Player in second-seeded Windham’s 52-38 victory over No. 1 Stonington, avenging last season’s tournament title by Stonington.

    “She played awesome,” Windham coach Robert Mangual said of Robins. “She’s a good point guard. She’s the future of this team and I’m super happy how she played. She stepped up on the road when a couple of the girls were in foul trouble. She stepped up big.”

    “It was my first time,” Robins said of playing under the bright lights at Mohegan. “I was a little nervous but I think my team hyping (the freshmen) up and motivating us really helped.”

    Stonington’s Presley Smith and Katelyn Cadmus were named to the all-tournament team for Stonington (15-8), along with Windham’s Hailey Flores, Aniya Jenkins and Robins. Robins finished with 13 points for the Whippets (19-4). Cadmus had 16 for Stonington. The attendance for the pair of ECC championship games Tuesday was 1,931.

    The teams split their regular-season series, with Windham winning 66-40 on Dec. 15 and Stonington returning the favor Jan. 24 with a 53-42 victory.

    Stonington coach Paulla Solar credited Windham for forcing a steady stream of turnovers from the Bears, which derailed the Stonington offense oftentimes before it got started and took away the height advantage the Bears used in their previous win over Windham.

    “Windham is very aggressive. We need to be more prepared for that,” Solar said. “We couldn’t really finish and we had a lot of turnovers.

    “I felt like a lot of times we turned the ball over for no apparent reason. Like, you’re trying to run an offense but you’ve gotta make the pass. The bottom line is if you’re going to run an offense and then throw it into somebody’s hands, it’s pretty hard to do anything.”

    Windham led 22-14 with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left in the second quarter, but Stonington remained tough, scoring on an inside move by 6-foot-1 center Rory Risley, a free throw by Adilyn Risley and jump shot from the right side by Cadmus to pull within 22-19 at the half.

    The Bears got the deficit to two in the third quarter trailing 26-24 on a layup by Smith after a steal by Leah DePerry, but Flores responded with a 3-point field goal for Windham and Robins followed with a basket.

    Windham ended the third on a drive by Robins and a 3 by Jenkins to push the lead to 39-30. Stonington got the margin to six one final time in the fourth quarter with a three-point play from Cadmus to pull within 44-38 but the Whippets scored the final eight points for the win.

    “(Last time we played), in the second half we didn’t score much. We turned the ball over a little bit and Rory did good scoring,” Mangual said. “This time we basically fronted (Risley) and played big and that helped us win the championship.

    “... We played Killingly, we played Bacon and that helps us with these games late in the season. We played people like Serenity Lancaster (from New London), so we were prepared. I think the girls in the warmups, in the line, they were just confident.”

    Both teams will next play in the Class M state tournament.

    “That’s a good test for us. They’re very aggressive. They’re very good shooters,” Solar said. “I thought, though, and this is typical of my team, they worked till the end as hard as they could and thank goodness there’s a shot clock so it’s not more aggravating than the 35 seconds.

    “I was hoping it would be a closer game, but they always give me so much. They always work so hard. I can’t fault them.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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