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    Sunday, May 26, 2024

    Saints, Falcons advance to ECC Division I boys’ basketball final

    Saint Bernard’s Amare Marshall (24) goes up for a shot against Waterford’s Juan Morel Jr. (35) during the ECC Division I boys' basketball semifinal game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Waterford High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Waterford’s Parker Spencer (4) drives the ball across the court against the defense of Saint Berndard’s Ty Grudzien (3) during the ECC Division I boys' basketball semifinal game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Waterford High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Devan Williams (2) drives the ball past Fitch’s Xavier Goode (3) with the help of a pick by teammate Julius Washington (5) during the ECC Division I boys' basketball semifinal game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Waterford High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Teeje Punch (24) and Fitch’s Nathan Virtue (23) fight for control of a rebound during the ECC Division I boys' basketball semifinal game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Waterford High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Saint Bernard’s Amyre Gray (4) goes up for a shot against Waterford’s Gabe Lombardi (5) and Jordi Cassar (10) during the ECC Division I boys' basketball semifinal game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Waterford High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Waterford — It is not the preferred place to play basketball in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, certainly not for St. Bernard, whose last loss within the league came at The X, otherwise known as the Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse, where road teams occasionally get that old Boston Garden feel: The place where bizarre things happen.

    The circumstances Saturday night were the same for the Saints: ECC Tournament semifinals against Waterford at the X, the last conference team to beat them 29 games and two years ago.

    Ah, but so much for that history repeating itself thing. The defending Division II state champs sent most of the crowd of 1,257 home early, throttling the Lancers 80-47, advancing to Mohegan Sun Arena against Fitch in the Division I title game Tuesday at 8.

    The Falcons edged neighboring rival New London in the other semifinal, 57-55, not only getting a chance at a title Tuesday but clinching the season series 2-1 against the Whalers.

    “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” St. Bernard coach Mark Jones said.

    The Saints (19-3) led 19-15 midway through the second period before using a 14-3 run. They were never threatened again by the ECC Division II champion Lancers (10-12), who advanced by defeating NFA at the X on Thursday. Waterford will try to avenge two regular season losses to East Lyme in the first round of the state Div. III tournament March 5.

    Amyre Gray led St. Bernard with 22 points. Amare Marshall had 13 points, Curtis Marshall scored 12 and Naz Rembert had 10.

    The Saints defeated Fitch twice in the regular season — and now must do it a third time. Sik’is Reels snapped a 48-48 tie late with a three-pointer and Xavier Goode hit a three with a minute left to push the lead to six, leading the Falcons (15-6).

    Fitch led by double digits early in the third period, but watched the Whalers (17-5) rally, tying it at 48 on Teeje Punch’s basket.

    “The kids responded like champions,” Fitch coach Charles Silvan said.

    Goode led the Falcons with 16 points, while Reels had 11 and Jacob Francis had 11 and eight blocks.

    “We just wanted to play with energy,” Francis said. “We played with energy because we knew what was coming.”

    Devan Williams led the Whalers with 20 points. New London must wait more than a week to play again, opening state Div. II tournament play at home vs. Bloomfield on March 4.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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