DURHAM – The Shoreline Conference girls’ basketball trophy will remain in Cromwell.
The Panthers held East Hampton to just four points in the final 7:30 en route to a 48-36 victory Friday night in the Shoreline Conference girls’ basketball championship game before an overflow crowd at Coginchaug High School.
It was the fifth Shoreline title for Cromwell (20-3) in the last six years. The Panthers were beaten at the buzzer in 2015 by Morgan for their only loss in the championship game since 2011.
“I’m so happy for the kids,” Cromwell coach Kelly Maher said after a raucous celebration. “It’s a tribute to them. They made a name for themselves this year.”
Except for five minutes in the opening quarter, Cromwell led the entire night. The Panthers tied it at 9-9 with 2:48 to play in the first quarter on a Kelsea Corcoran 3-pointer and then took off from there, grabbing a 22-11 edge early in the second quarter.
East Hampton (20-3) rallied behind star guard Gyanna Russell’s 15 points in the first half to close it to 28-23 just before halftime.
Cromwell played man-to-man defense the entire night, figuring that Russell would get her points. She did, with 25, including 15 in the first half. That came after she scored 42 points in a win over Westbrook in the semifinals.
“We knew she would still do what she does get her points, but we knew they had other girls who could score,” Maher said.
Despite missing a bunch of layups in the early stages of the third quarter, Cromwell never lost the lead as East Hampton rallied to cut the deficit to 38-32 after three quarters.
But that may have been too many points to allow already as East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said the goal tonight was to keep the game in the 30s for the Bellringers to have a chance to win.
“The closer it was to 50 would be in their favor,” said Russell, whose team beat Cromwell, 35-31, back on Jan. 17. “We had to keep it closer to 30 on our end.”
Lindsay Orbann hit a jumper to close it to 38-34 just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter and it seemed as it would be close the rest of the way.
However, the Cromwell defense clamped down on the Bellringers from there, especially on Russell, who scored the only other points they would have with 1:49 to go.
“We work on defense on every practice and working on getting one stop at a time,” Maher said. “The kids did a great job of playing one possession at a time.”
Offensively, Cromwell pulled away with Jenna Sorrentino (13 points) scoring five points in the final eight minutes.
“We got some good looks and didn’t make any foul shots (in the fourth quarter),” Russell said. You’re not going to win a game in December scoring four points in the fourth quarter let alone this time of the year.”
Besides Sorrentino, Nikki Bitinaitis added 12 points for Cromwell. Orbann had eight for East Hampton.