UNCASVILLE – There are going to be games like this in the CIAC state tournament if Norwich Free Academy wants to make a return trip to the Mohegan Sun Arena.
This is the time of year when teams grind out possessions and teams don’t always make the shots they normally make. When it’s win or go home, it can make you do strange things.
Ledyard had plenty to do with NFA’s struggles and led going into the fourth quarter. But the top-seeded Wildcats tightened up the defense even more and were able to finally pull away to win 54-43 and capture the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship before 3,092.
“We wanted to extend the pressure and force turnovers and that’s what we did,” NFA junior Mason Jackson said. “We were forcing it in the first half, trying to do too much. We wanted to trap them, force turnovers, don’t let them get it to Jabari Jones.”
— GameDay (@GameDayCT) March 4, 2020
Jones led Ledyard with 12 points, but scored just three in the second half.
The Wildcats won their first ECC title since 2014 and remain undefeated (23-0), onle of just two left in the state. The other is Prince Tech.
“Every time we got a deflection, we couldn’t grab it, or we would grab it and turn it right back over,” NFA coach Chris Giusti said. “Those turnovers we normally turn into points, we weren’t able to and that’s a credit to (Ledyard).
Interestingly, only three players scored for NFA: Jackson, the tournament MVP with 26 points (including 12 of 15 from the line), Nolan Molkenthin (14 points) and Jared Martin (14). But it was enough to win.
The Wildcats’ half-court trap held third-seeded Ledyard (14-9) scoreless over the first 4½ minutes of the fourth quarter and just eight overall in the period.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) March 4, 2020
“They left a lot of threes open and we couldn’t hit them,” Giusti said. “The first time we played them, we hit 10 threes, so it was over early. I don;t know how many we hit tonight, maybe two? Three?”
NFA made just two 3-point shots.
Jackson, a junior, scored 16 in the quarter.
“We really needed this one,” Jackson said. “Seeing East Catholic in our bracket, we think we can compete with them so this was good for us to get us ready. During the season, we had a lot of blowouts.”
Ledyard led by as many as eight in the second quarter, led by four at halftime and by three at the end of three quarters.
“At the end they got tired and they made mistakes,” Ledyard coach Dave Cornish said. “We wanted to run our offense and close them down on defense and that’s kind of what we did. I’m proud of every one of them.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Mason Jackson, NFA: Got it done on both ends for the Wildcats. Scored game-high 26 points, made ;ate steal then drew the foul on the layup on the other end.