No. 6 Whalers withstand late Bacon rally for 52-45 win in girls' basketball

Jan. 4—COLCHESTER — New London was on autopilot and things looked easy, a 26-point lead in the middle of the third quarter following a three-point play by all-state junior Serenity Lancaster.

But when things changed, when sophomore Nyarah Dudley fouled out with 3 minutes, 44 seconds to play in the third quarter, giving the Whalers one less confident ballhandler, and Bacon Academy threw in a halfcourt press, New London suddenly fought to hang on.

"When a team throws a press, then we've got to think a little bit, you've got to react a little bit," New London coach Tammy Millsaps said. "We reacted by turning the ball over. We reacted by tightening up. We reacted by not having the confidence.

"So those are the things as a coach that we have to implement in practice and work more on 'cause that's frustrating."

Sixth-ranked New London, coming off a loss earlier in the week to Fitch, held on to beat Bacon Academy 52-45 at Dave Shea Gymnasium, but not before Bacon went on a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter, pulling within 49-42 on a fast break layup by Katelyn Novak with 1:46 to play.

New London freshman Jaidelis Rivera hit a 3-pointer from the left side with 1:10 remaining for the Whalers' only points of the quarter following a Bacon turnover.

Lancaster finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, seven blocked shots, five steals and two assists for New London (5-2) and Ky-Ani Allgood had eight points and eight rebounds. Rivera added seven points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals.

Skyleen Schoen-Rene led Bacon (5-2) with 16 points, plus seven rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots, while Elizabeth Glover had 11 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

"The pressing had to do with the personnel that was on the floor at times (for both teams)," Bacon coach Kevin Fennell said. "They went to the bench much more in the second half. (Dudley fouling out) was an important part of the game.

"I thought it was an exceptional effort (for us) in the second half. The pace that New London can play at is something we hadn't seen this year. ... I really feel like there were a couple pivotal plays if they had gone our way, it could have been a five-point game with a minute and a half to go. Instead it ballooned back up to 10."

Schoen-Rene started the fourth quarter with a basket and Glover followed with a scoop shot and a foul, converting the three-point play to make it 49-34.

Emily Ferrigno made a pair of free throws in two separate trips to the line, Novak scored and Schoen-Rene got inside to pull the Bobcats within 49-40 before Novak's layup, a result of a steal from Ferrigno, closed the previous 26-point span to seven.

New London, which led 33-16 at halftime behind 16 points from Lancaster and 49-29 after three quarters, shot 1-for-10 in the fourth quarter.

Both teams go back to Eastern Connecticut Conference divisional play now, with New London meeting Norwich Free Academy in a Division I matchup Tuesday and Bacon getting ready to host Waterford in Division II on Tuesday, at which time the Bobcats will unveil their state championship soccer banner.

Fennell said he learned a great deal about his team's mettle against New London.

"There's some good chemistry developing with the team," said Fennell, who said that 13 of the program's 16 players were on the soccer team which won the Class M title this fall, including Glover, the MVP of the state championship game in goal.

Millsaps, meanwhile, despite the win, said it will take New London "a while to be really good."

"We've got a lot of stuff to work out," Millsaps said. "We'll get there slowly but surely. (The team's freshmen) are only going to gain confidence playing in games. ... But (Bacon) did a good job. Give them some credit. They had some good size in there."