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    Sunday, April 21, 2024

    Mercy! NL’s season ends in Class LL second round

    New London’s Jaidelis Rivera (20) and Mercy’s Winnie Ciccarello (10) fight for control of the ball after Ciccarello knocked the ball away from Rivera during the second round game of the girls’ basketball Class LL state tournament Friday, March 1, 2024, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Nyarah Dudley (1) drives the ball to the basket against Mercy’s Rose Szeghy (25) during the second round game of the girls’ basketball Class LL state tournament Friday, March 1, 2024, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Ky-Ani Allgood (3) defends against Mercy’s Mercedes Artaiz (44) during the second round game of the girls’ basketball Class LL state tournament Friday, March 1, 2024, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Serenity Lancaster (5) defends against Mercy’s Mercedes Artaiz (44) during the second round game of the girls’ basketball Class LL state tournament Friday, March 1, 2024, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London’s Jaidelis Rivera (20) goes up for a shot against Mercy’s Mercedes Artaiz (44) during the second round game of the girls’ basketball Class LL state tournament Friday, March 1, 2024, at New London High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London — Somewhere in this clinking, clanking, collection of carnage Friday night at Conway Gym came an oasis for New London High, a seven-point run early in the fourth period to assume a 24-19 lead.

    Suddenly, all the fouls, turnovers, jump balls felt a duller ache, what with New London’s experience with defeating the opponent, No. 11 Mercy of Middletown, the victim in last season’s Class MM title game.

    And yet once the Whalers took the aforementioned lead with 5:12 remaining, they never scored again.

    Mercy 33, New London 24.

    The three-time state champion Tigers, a program with plenty of pedigree, move to the Class LL quarterfinals Monday night in Hamden. The Whalers, who finish 20-6, get to ponder all the wouldas, shouldas and couldas that accompany the season ending defeat.

    “We’ve been winning a lot, but even in those games, our inexperience was showing,” New London coach Tammy Millsaps said. “Two freshmen and a sophomore out there. Lots of hard lessons learned out there tonight.”

    By the time it ended, starters Nyarah Dudley and Marlena Childs fouled out. Serenity Lancaster finished with a season low eight points. Not one player exited the locker room a good 20 minutes after the game who wasn’t fighting back tears.

    “A heck of a team win,” Mercy coach Tim Kohs said. “The kids were saying how much they wanted to play New London because of last year. I’m telling them ‘be careful what you wish for.’ They’re really good. You won’t find a better player than Lancaster. In the end, our kids just wanted it.”

    In the end, guard Maddie Benigni proved tougher than Clorox, dismissing three quarters’ worth of frustration to score eight of her team’s points during the game-closing 14-0 run.

    “Maddie shot the ball as bad as any good player we’ve ever had,” Kohs said, “and then she won us the game.”

    Winnie Ciccarello’s three-pointer with 4:34 left snapped New London’s 7-0 run and brought Mercy within two. Abi Weidman, who guarded Lancaster most of the night, gave Mercy the lead for good with 3:09 left.

    “Give coach Kohs credit,” Millsaps said. “His kids played well.”

    Jaidelis Rivera finished with seven for the Whalers, who did accomplish a 20-win season and earn a division and tournament championship within the Eastern Connecticut Conference.

    “We missed a lot of shots early. There were a lot of fouls. Jump balls,” Millsaps said, alluding to the first half finishing with 22 combined points and 17 combined fouls. “We just didn’t react well to it. We just talked about showing mental toughness after the game.”

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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