By MICHAEL LETENDRE
NEW LONDON – The Bristol Eastern girls basketball squad had to battle all the elements on its way to earning a state tournament berth in the CIAC Class LL fray this year after an extremely trying season.
At 7-13, the Lancers earned the final seed in the bracket but that meant a first round date against top-rated New London who is – perhaps – the best squad the state of Connecticut has to offer.
Severely overmatched, Eastern gave it a whirl on Monday, Feb. 26 but it the end, the Whalers were simply too much to contend with as the Lancers ended its season in a 62-22 loss from New London High School.
New London (24-0), the defending Class LL champs, haven’t lost a game since late Feb. of 2017 and clearly are rolling back to the Mohegan Sun Arena to defend its title.
The Whalers did a tremendous job in being physical against Eastern (7-14) and forced 25 turnovers in the showdown, turning defense into offense for several high percentage hoops.
The Lancers were down three varsity players coming into the game as Meredith Foreman, Cheyenne Sargent, and Paige McLaughlin were all injured as two of the top reserves off the bench for the Eastern program that night were freshman.
“It was tough to match-up,” said Eastern coach Tony Floyd. “We missed that other ball-handler. We didn’t have Paige [McLaughlin] and that hurt us. We had to play Jordan [Ouellette] outside and right now, we’re thin inside. We didn’t get the play we needed from our inside players tonight.”
Hannah Maghini finished her scholastic career with seven points, five rebounds and a couple steals while backcourt mate Miranda Janick flipped in six points and two rebounds in her final game for the Lancers.
Jordan Ouellette added four points and four rebounds to the mix, Avery Arbuckle had two points and rejected a couple shots, Sage Scarritt nabbed five rebounds off the pine while senior Karly Martin didn’t score but worked hard in a very tough spot – battling several bigger and taller players in the front-court.
“Karly worked really hard but they were just too much inside,” said Floyd of New London.
Cassie Doyon, Maura McGuire, Riley Giblin, Leah Chipman, Amaya Massari, Rachel Gregory, and Alyssa Kehler all made appearances for the Lancers in the game.
New London’s Rosi Nicholson blasted in a game high 18 points and dished out three assists. Her half dozen steals set the tone of the contest from the onset.
Overall, the program had 17 steals – nine of which came in a blistering first period of play which set the tone.
Taina Pagan zipped in 14 points and five rebounds and the center did a nice job working in the paint, posting up players and dropping in high percentage shots.
“They had a really good post player,” said Floyd. “That 6-foot-1 kid [Pagan] did a really good job.”
Eastern hung around early in the affair, flirting with a chance at the lead and when Janick found Maghini for a hoop, New London’s cushion was just 4-2 just two minutes into the event.
But several consecutive turnovers by the Lancers led to doom and demise and off an 18-0 run – ended with a lay-up from KD Spencer Roman (six points), the Whalers were firmly in command at 22-2 with 20 seconds to play in first frame.
“Early in the game, we made some turnovers that put us in a hole on the press,” said Floyd. “We settled down but when you get down to a good team like that by 10 or 12, it’s tough to come back. They’re a good enough team where they’re not going to allow you to just come back.”
Ouellette hit the next two hoops for Eastern and with 5:02 left in the first half, Arbuckle dropped in two free throws but New London was firmly in front by a 31-8 push.
The Lancers did not score again in the half as the Whalers continued to smother Eastern defensively and via a 7-0 run, the home team led by thirty at the halftime break, 38-8.
Maghini opened the third period with two free throws and later in the stanza, Scarritt canned a charity shot.
And when Janick kicked in her 11th 3-pointer of the season with 3:24 left in the tilt, New London’s lead was still a commanding one at 47-14.
Down 54-14 going into the fourth frame, Cali Doyon found Janick for a three-point play to open the final quarter and with 2:30 left, Maghini canned the final 3-pointer of her career.
And then with 1:05 remaining, De’Lis Wynn dropped in her first varsity basket for Eastern but in the end, the Lancers fell 62-22 – battling to the final horn as they have all season long.
“I thought New London just did a really good job defensively taking us out of what we wanted to do,” said Floyd. “They did a really good job on the ball and gave us trouble because we didn’t shoot well. We have to make shots and it was a compounding effect.”
“We didn’t make our shots, and they got second and third shots.”
The contest ended the scholastic career for the outstanding senior crew of Cassie Doyon, Cheyenne Sargent, Karly Martin, Miranda Janick, and sharp-shooter Hannah Maghini.