Girls Basketball Class LL Championship
New London 42, Trumbull 36
By Jimmy Zanor
Special to CIACsports.com
UNCASVILLE – New London senior India Pagan poured in a game-high 18 points and the third-seeded Whalers captured the Class LL state championship with a 42-36 victory over No. 1 Trumbull Saturday night at The Mohegan Sun Arena.
New London (26-2) avenged a close loss to Capital Prep in last year’s championship game. This was the Whalers second state title in four years. New London defeated Morgan in the 2014 Class M final.
“This was so important,” said Pagan, who also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. “We knew we could have won it last year but this year we wanted it all. We just went into the locker room at halftime and said this is our game. We’re not going to let it slip away.”
Sophomore forward Xaryia Melendez had 10 points and seven rebounds, while senior guard Jada Lucas added seven points for the ECC champion Whalers.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” New London coach Holly Misto said. “It was a geat team effort. They really do love each other and play for each other. They have heart. We brought it back to New London.”
Trumbull (26-2), which defeated Mercy in overtime in the semifinals, was led by junior guard Julia Keckler (12 points) and junior forward Aisling Maguire (eight points).
The FCIAC champion Eagles, who never led, shot just 12 for 40 (30 percent) from the field.
“We had some difficulty executing in the half court,” Trumbull coach Steve Tobitsch said. “We struggled to get clean looks at the hoop in the fourth quarter. New London’s a fantastic team. We have nothing to be ashamed about.”
Pagan was at her best early in the third quarter. The 6-2 center scored seven straight points as the Whalers maintained a 30-26 advantage.
“At halftime I said get India the ball in the block and let her go to work,” Misto said. “Everyone had some big minutes..We ran more of our offense in the second half than we did in the first half. I think we just had to calm down.”
New London led just 32-31 entering the fourth quarter. But the Whalers hit the Eagles with a decisive 7-0 spurt, highlighted by a pair of low post baskets from Melendez, and led 40-31 with 2:45 remaining.
Keckler’s 3-pointer pulled Trumbull within 40-34 with just 1:33 left. But Lucas answered with a nifty baseline layup that made it 42-34 with 35 seconds remaining.
“We went toe-to-toe with the best teams in the state….NFA, Mercy,” Tobitsch said. “It hurts right now. But to be state LL runnersup I think says something a lot about this team and how good they are.”
Pagan scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds to help the Whalers build leads of 11-8 after one quarter and 23-20 at halftime.
A pair of free throws from sophomore K.D. Spencer Roman gave New London a 13-8 cushion early in the second quarter.
Trumbull junior Kristen Pagliaro drained a corner 3-pointer and junior Julie Keckler converted a driving layup to tie it at 13.
But the Whalers responded with a 6-0 run. Junior Rosalee Nicholson scored a fast break layup off a turnover and sophomore Xaryla Melendez sank a short jumper to give the Whalers their largest lead of the first half at 19-13.
“This means the world,” Pagan added. “To win two championships…not too many poeple can say they have two. We are the number one team in the state.”