TORRINGTON >> New London, the number one-ranked girls basketball team in the GameTimeCT state poll, beat Torrington 45-23 Wednesday night in a game reminiscent of Tuesday’s ugly weather.
For drivers on the road or on the court, extenuating circumstances were plentiful.
New London, 14-0, a class M-sized school, pays the penalty of their success, being kicked up to Class LL this year after a Class M state championship three years ago, followed by a Class L runner-up in the championship game last year in which the Whalers lost by just three points to storied Capital Prep.
Everybody in or out of their home Eastern Connecticut Conference (ECC) plays them tough. Wednesday, they lacked two starters, including their point guard, both out with injuries until next week.
Not many schools want to play the Whalers, so a 1-hour, 40-minute bus ride to Torrington is part of the game.
The Red Raiders, 8-3, viewed it as a chance to practice against a high-quality team. Ugly was good against a team that blows opponents out by 30 or more.
“I’m not upset,” said Coach Mike Fritch. “We played as well as we could against a quality opponent. We’re not going to see a team like this again.”
Neither team looked good on offense because both teams looked good on defense.
Torrington packed in a 2-3 zone against New London’s big girls. The Raiders held their own on rebounds through the first half, then lost the battle 36-20 while the Whalers grabbed 20 second-half boards.
“They’re a good team,” said Whalers Coach Holly Misto. “We like to run and we like to be aggressive, but you can always rely on your defense.”
New London tried a full-court press, but Torrington regularly broke it despite the Whalers’ 21-16 edge in turnovers.
New London plays a physical half-court defense that comes away with the ball if an opponent stands still or tries to dribble through.
“We learned a lot of lessons,” smiled Fritch.
Neither team shot well outside, so the defense defined the offense – a 7-3 first quarter, 19-7 at the half.
“Our goal is to hold teams under 20 points for the first half,” said Coach Misto.
Consider that thoroughly done, but the Raiders made a comeback of sorts in the third period when guard Alexis Tyrrell found the mark for back-to-back outside shots and Sara Bardwell, Alyssa Maraia (team-high 7 points) and Kayla Williams made contributions.
But that’s also when New London’s size took over. Six-foot-two center India Pagan scored 10 of her game-high 12 points in the second half, several of them on putbacks.
Forward Xaryia Melendez had four of her 10 points in the third quarter.
For Torrington, whose do-it-all leader Brie Pergola had 8 rebounds, the victory was keeping Pagan and Melendez the only Whalers in double figures.
There’s better weather ahead for both sides.
New London 45, Torrington 23
At Torrington High School
New London 7 12 13 13 – 45
Torrington 3 4 11 5 – 23
New London (45): Rosalee Nicholson 3-1-7; Jada Lucas 2-0-5; Leilani McClellan 2-0-5; Spencer Roman 1-0-2; India Pagan 4-4-12; Xaryia Melendez 4-2-10; Totals: 17-9-45
Torrington (23): Alexis Tyrrell 2-1-6; Brie Pergola 1-0-2; Sidnee Kovall 1-0-2; Sara Bardwell 1-0-2; Alyssa Maraia 3-0-7; Kirsten Gray 0-0-0; Kayla Williams 2-0-4; Totals: 10-1-23
Half-time score: 19-7 New London
3-point goals: NL – Lucas; McClellan. T – Tyrrell; Maraia.
Records: New London 14-0; Torrington 8-3