STONINGTON — When a basketball team misses 48 shots, compiles 28.4 percent field goal accuracy and hits just 11 of 27 from the free-throw line, it usually translates into a long night for that misfiring squad.
That is unless that team has Margot Calmar banging the boards and a group of fiesty role players surrounding her. Despite its off shooting night, Stonington owned the rebounding edge, 49-22, and rode the 21-point, 21-rebound effort of Calmar to down Fitch, 58-32, in an ECC out-of-division game Friday that wrapped up the Bears’ regular season.
Stonington heads into postseason with a 13-7 record and awaits word on its seeding and play-in opponent for the ECC Tournament, which begins Thursday. Fitch fell to 4-15.
“From now on, it’s one [loss] and done for us,” Stonington coach Paulla Solar said. “When we’ve struggled this year, we’ve had issues with our intensity. This team has a lot of potential but we need everyone to jell on the same night and need to keep our intensity up. We worked on keeping up the intensity tonight, and I think we did that.”
Fitch played Friday without its top two frontcourt players and three starters overall. Still, the Falcons played on even terms in the first quarter, trailing just 12-11 until Calmar converted an offensive putback to give the Bears a 14-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
“We knew it could be a tough night without our top two players up front,” Fitch coach Dave Huber said. “We emphasized boxing out, but didn’t do it, and Calmar and others got a ton of rebounds.”
Stonington inched ahead to a 30-20 halftime lead with Tatyana LaFrance Boyce (16 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Sammi Shroyer (six rebounds, three assists, four steals) and Chelsea Alfonso (four points, three steals) keying a press that started to unravel Fitch’s ball-handling. The Bears also continued to rebound feverishly, particularly on missed free throws, either leading to more free throws or layups.
Fitch’s 6-2 sophomore center Syndee Spruill blocked five shots, and the outside shooting of Falcon guards Jaliyla Griffin (11 points) and Taylor Griffin (nine points) kept the Bears within reasonable distance. Then Calmar, who had three assists and four steals to go with her 21-21 line, and Tatyana LaFrance Boyce sparked an 18-0 run to blow the game open in the third quarter. Fitch hit a free throw with 38 seconds left in the third for its only point of the period.
It was a successful senior night for Stonington, which honored forward Annie Knizeski and guards Alfonso, Shroyer and Tia LaFrance Boyce, who all joined Calmar in the starting lineup.
“I thought Chelsea and Sammi were very aggressive and had some nice entry passes to Margot,” Solar said.
This year’s seniors have embraced their role-playing status after enjoying starring roles in others sports, particularly Knizeski, Shroyer and Tia LaFrance Boyce, who was an All-State pick, on the state champion field hockey team.
Ironically, Calmar was a role-playing defender on that team, but she is unquestionably the scene-stealer on this basketball team. The 6-1 junior, who is looking to play at Ivy League schools, heads into postseason with imposing averages of 17 points and 19 rebounds a game.
She has 379 rebounds this season, just 20 behind Heather Buck’s single-season record of 399 in her senior year of 2008. Buck is the Bears’ all-time leader with 1,404.
“She broke our single-game record (26) earlier this year and is a phenomenal rebounder,” Solar said.
“She has the uncanny ability to find the ball and fight for a rebound without going over the back. Her timing is great and she’s such a good athlete.”
Despite the presence of Calmar’s record-setting rebounding, Stonington could finish no better than 5-5 in the competitive ECC-Medium, tying for fourth with Montville in the six-team division and finishing behind regular-season champ New London and second-place Waterford.
Solar said while the Bears look forward to settling scores with ECC foes in the conference tournament, she believes the Bears can make their presence felt against unfamiliar, non conference teams in the states.
“The division was strong, and the ECC overall is very solid with Ledyard, NFA, East Lyme and St. Bernard,” Solar said.
“We’d like to pay back some of the teams that beat us in the regular season. We’re also hoping that playing a number of tough ECC teams will prepare us for the Class M state tournament.”