Whalers moving up to Class LL to attempt another title; Bears may see Windham again in Class M

Feb. 22—New London coach Tammy Millsaps wasn't focusing so much on her own team's offensive rebounding on Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. It's giving up an offensive rebound to the other team that bugs her.

"I can take offensive rebounds and maybe not scoring but what a coach can't take is the other team getting offensive rebounds and they score on them," Millsaps said following the Whalers' Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I tournament championship over Ledyard, New London's third straight title.

"But those are things we can work on."

Sixth-seeded New London (19-4) will begin play in the Class LL girls' basketball state tournament at 6:30 p.m. Monday, hosting a first-round game against No. 27 Brien McMahon. The Whalers are the defending Class MM state champion, but were bumped up two classes this year.

If both teams advance, the Whalers would play No. 11 Mercy in the second round. New London beat Mercy in last year's MM title game.

"All you want to do is survive and advance," Millsaps said. "Isn't that the name of the game when they talk about March Madness? I think it's a lot about how we practice. What's the old saying? 'Games are an example of the preparation you put in practice.'

"It's no mistake. The things you see out on the floor, the emphasis on certain things, ball movement, running in transition, defending, those are all things that are staples of any program. If you don't do those well, you're not going to be able to win a lot of games."

No. 15 Norwich Free Academy is also in Class LL and will play a first-round game at home Monday against No. 18 Manchester. No. 15 Fitch is in Class L and will meet No. 18 Bristol Central in the first round Tuesday.

A first-round game in Class MM will feature a pair of local teams as No. 4 Bacon Academy will play at home against No. 29 Waterford at 6 p.m. Tuesday. No. 18 Ledyard will play at No. 15 Bassick.

No. 12 Stonington and No. 20 Montville are in Class M and No. 10 Lyman Memorial, No. 11 St. Bernard, No. 21 Norwich Tech and No. 28 Old Lyme will compete in Class S.

Stonington (15-8) will play a home game at 6 p.m. Monday against No. 21 Woodland. The winner of that game advances to play No. 5 Windham in the second round. Stonington and Windham met in Tuesday's ECC Division II title game at Mohegan, a 52-38 Windham victory. The teams split during the regular season.

"They deserved that win, they really did deserve that win," Stonington coach Paulla Solar said following the championship game.

Solar said that Windham coach Robert Mangual mentioned to her in the handshake line that the teams may face each other in the Class M tournament, as well.

"I think if we can clean up some of the stuff ... It's tough to lose here, but I mean all the things we did wrong, now we've got to learn from them and clean them up before we play," Solar said.