PUTNAM, Conn. — Third time was indeed the charm for the Wheeler High boys basketball team.
The 10th-seeded Lions, who had lost twice by 17 points or more to Putnam during the regular season, stunned the No. 7 Clippers, 58-46, on Thursday in the ECC Division II tournament play-in round.
It marked the first ECC tournament victory in coach Neal Cobleigh's 11 seasons at Wheeler.
"Obviously a big win for us," he said.
Cobleigh said the Lions' defense — they used a diamond-and-one as well as 3-2 zone that shaded to Putnam standout Sebastian Ramos — was key to the victory.
Bowen Baker "did a fabulous job on him," Cobleigh said of his point guard, who played man-to-man on Ramos in the diamond-and-one.
"We took them right out of their offense. They had no cohesiveness. Guys that had to handle the ball weren't used to handling the ball."
Ramos scored 20 for Putnam (10-11), but Cobleigh said the Lions were able to maintain a lead throughout the contest.
Wheeler was up 22-18 at halftime, and 40-30 after three quarters. Putnam cut the lead to four points in the fourth period, but Liam Patrick hit a clutch 3-pointer to keep the Clippers at bay.
Baker finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and seven steals for the Lions (6-15). Scott Pion added 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals, Ian Spracklin scored 13, Michael Warren had 10 points and seven rebounds, and Patrick had eight points and five boards.
"The guys played hard, and they executed," Cobleigh said.
Wheeler next visits No. 2 Stonington for a quarterfinal-round game Friday at 6 p.m.
"Our kids are up for the challenge," Cobleigh said. "We'll see how it goes."
— Ken Sorensen