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No. 4 Bobcats pressure their way into Class MM quarterfinals with win over New Fairfield

Mar. 1—COLCHESTER — Kevin Fennell, Bacon Academy's head coach, asserts that every time the Bobcats have had a signature win this season, the team has held its opponent to long stretches without scoring.

So would this be a signature win for Bacon, then?

"Oh, absolutely," Fennell said. "I thought that was a talented team that we just played. They're very organized. And if you can move on to the quarterfinals, certainly that's a win of significance."

Fourth-seeded Bacon held No. 13 New Fairfield without scoring for the first 6 minutes, 13 seconds of the second half Friday night, grabbing momentum with a suffocating halfcourt press and holding on to beat the Rebels 38-31.

Bacon will play at home in the quarterfinals against No. 5 Sheehan at 7 p.m. Tuesday after Sheehan dispatched No. 12 East Haven 68-42 on Friday.

Katelyn Novak led Bacon (18-6) with 17 points, five rebounds and four steals. Skyelyn Schoen-Rene had nine points, seven rebounds and six steals and Elizabeth Glover had 10 rebounds in the win.

The game was tied 31-31 after baskets from New Fairfield's Kaitlyn Garbowski and Caitlyn Rea, but Bacon got the go-ahead basket from Glover, who got an offensive rebound at an awkward angle underneath the basket and scored from the right side to break the ice.

The Bobcats scored the game's final seven points, also getting a driving layup from Emily Ferrigno and three free throws combined from Glover and Novak in the final 14 seconds.

"It feels awesome. I'm so happy that we won," Novak said. "I was so nervous coming into the game but I knew we could do it. I knew we could pull it off. We really pulled through and I'm very proud of the girls."

"We do pride ourself on our defensive rebounding and trying to contain the other team's best players," Fennell said. "We knew that (New Fairfield's) No. 20 (Rea) and No. 4 (Kaitlyn Mangan) were both outstanding players. (Rea) is a 1,000-point scorer and (Mangan) is an exceptional 3-point shooter.

"So we knew we had our hands full with those two players and their success, but we knew the rest of the kids could score, too. It was a challenge."

New Fairfield (15-10) led 11-10 after one quarter and 20-17 at halftime. Bacon implemented its press, referred to as "fire," in the second quarter, limiting the New Fairfield offense but not taking advantage of it enough to gain the lead.

In the third quarter, Fennell said the Bobcats adjusted their pressure to pay more attention to Rea, which worked in Bacon's favor.

The Bobcats went on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter on baskets by Glover, Novak to give the team a 21-20 lead, Cara Shea and Novak again to go ahead 25-20. By the time Mangan scored to end New Fairfield's drought, there was 1:47 to play in the third.

New Fairfield did tie things at 27-27 after three quarters and 31-31 with 3:53 to play but never cracked the Bacon defense again, with Shea and Novak each coming up with clutch steals in the final minute. New Fairfield shot 4-for-22 in the second half.

New Fairfield was the South-West Conference tournament runner-up this season, upsetting No. 2 Pomperaug in the semifinals, a game in which Rea eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier.

Bacon lost in the semifinals of the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament to sixth-seeded Ledyard 69-58, watching a 16-point halftime lead dissipate. But the Bobcats bounced back with a 65-44 first-round win over Waterford in their Class MM tournament opener.

v.fulkerson@theday.com