UNCASVILLE >> Experience paid dividends for New London in the Class LL state final.
A year after falling to Capital Prep on the court at Mohegan Sun Arena, the third-seeded Whalers fought of top-seeded and No. 1 Trumbull 42-36 to win their second title in four years.
New London’s other state title came in Class M in 2014.
“I’m so proud of my team,” New London coach Holly Misto said. “Great team effort. They really do love each other, they have heart — it was right down to the end with free throws. We brought it back to New London and I’m really proud of that.”
Stony Brook-bound forward India Pagan led the Whalers with 18 points and 11 rebounds and her 6-foot-2 frame altered many shots under the basket.
Xaryia Melendez added 10 points for New London. Julie Keckler led Trumbull with 12 points.
“It feels amazing,” Pagan said. “It’s been back-and-forth all year. No one knew who was the No. 1 team, but now everyone knows New London is the No. 1 team in the state.”
But it was the defense late in the game that won this one for the current No. 3 team and likely No. 1 in the final GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 poll.
“We think we’re No. 1,” Misto said. “We sure feel like we are.”
New London held the Eagles scoreless for over eight minutes of game time from 1:40 in the third to 1:36 left in the fourth. The Whalers turned a 1-point advantage into a 9-point lead and Trumbull could not recover.
“I’ve got to do a better job at getting the girls shots in good positions,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said.
The physical play suited New London better and it showed, especially after Claudia Tucci fouled out with 4:39 left in the game with four points and three rebounds, but the only player for the Eagles that could match-up with Pagan.
“Claudia Tucci, one of our best players, had a little bit of foul trouble,” Tobitsch said. “We had to keep bringing her in and out and obviously they had some opportunities inside out and we had to change up our game plan.”
New London scored 28 points in the paint to Trumbull’s 14 and the Eagles never led.
University of Hartford commit Jada Lucas got in early foul trouble and Misto sat her with 6:54 left in the second, but it didn’t hurt the Whalers too much as they outscored the Eagles 8-2 in her absence.
She scored seven points on 2 of 12 shooting and although her offense wasn’t a big factor, her defense and quickness sparked New London.
“We didn’t really start out how we wanted to in the first half,” Lucas said. “So coach gave us a pep talk in halftime. She told us this is our game and we have to play defense. We started pressing and stuff and that’s how it opened up.”
The last real chance Trumbull had was with 6:48 left in the third when Keckler made one of two free throws to tie the game at 23.
Aisling Maguire hit a 3-pointer with four minutes left in the quarter to pull within one. But that was it as New London made nine free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
New London 42, Trumbull 36
New London: 11 12 9 10 — 42
Trumbull: 8 12 11 5 — 36
(at Mohegan Sun Arena)
New London (42)
Rosalee Nicholson 1 0-0 2, Jada Lucas 2 2-6 7, K.D. Spencer Roman 0 3-6 3, India Pagan 8 2-3 18, Xaryia Melendez 5 0-2 10, Leilani McClellan 0 0-0 0, Cora Sawyer 0 0-0 0, Taina Pagan 0 2-2 2 — Total 16 9-19 42.
Claudia Tucci 0 4-6 4, Aisling Maguire 3 1-1 8, Julie Keckler 5 1-5 12, Victoria Ray 0 0-0 0, Taylor Brown 2 0-0 6, Meghan Lesko 0 0-0 0, Kristen Pagliaro 1 0-0 3, Kelly O’Leary 0 0-0 0, Brady-Ayn Lynch 1 1-1 3 — Total 12 7-13 36.
3-point goals: New London 1 (Lucas); Trumbull 5 (Brown 2, Maguire, Keckler).
Fouled out: New London — none; Trumbull — Tucci.
Team records: New London 26-2; Trumbull 26-2.