STONINGTON — For the Stonington High's boys basketball team, this has been a season with far too many tough losses.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they can add another one to that list after Monday night's 73-70 ECC South Division setback against Ledyard in the final regular-season contest for both teams.
No. 9 Stonington (1-9, 1-9 ECC South) will travel to No. 8 Montville on Wednesday for an ECC South Division tournament play-in game at 5 p.m. The winner will visit top-seeded Fitch on Friday.
"We are becoming battled-tested. But no one likes to lose," Bears coach Jay Wosencroft said. "The way they are competing, the way they are playing, I am confident we can regroup for Wednesday and then for the rest of the postseason. We mesh well, we have the pieces, we just have to get over that hump."
Stonington has lost four games this season by three points and another, to Ledyard earlier in the season, by seven. The Bears are not that far from being 6-4.
"All the close games, it can be frustrating," said junior guard Cam Hinchey, who finished with 23 points, including seven 3-pointers. "Some wins might boost our confidence a little bit. But in practice, we practice hard. With all the younger players we have, we are building the program. I think we are definitely building the program for next year."
Hinchey had the hot hand early, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points in the first quarter. He did not miss, making shots from all over the floor.
He had 20 points at the half and was 6 for 6 from beyond the arc. Ledyard adjusted its defense and made sure the defender on Hinchey did not provide any help to his teammates.
"I'm not really keeping track, just trying to win the game," Hinchey said. "We played hard defense, and we made good shots. I don't know. It was just a close game. We can't do much more."
Stonington did not have an answer for Ledyard's Dorell Cagle, who finished with 26 points. He had 25 in the first meeting between the two teams.
Cagle, a rugged 6-foot-3 forward, was able to drive to the basket, especially late in the game.
Stonington took a two-point lead, 68-66, on a putback by Dorian White (16 points, seven rebounds) with 3:14 left in the contest. But Cagle, who scored Ledyard's final seven points, hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 68 with 2:57 left.
White answered with a 16-footer to make it 70-68 with 2:40 remaining. White then blocked a Cagle shot on the Colonels' ensuing possession. Stonington came up with the ball, but immediately turned it over.
Cagle ended up at the free-throw line and hit a pair to tie it at 70 with 2:24 left.
Stonington had an air-ball 3-pointer with 2:07 left, and Ledyard held the ball on its next possession. The Colonels missed a shot with just over a minute left, but came up with a big offensive rebound.
Cagle showed good patience and scored on a power move to the basket to put the Colonels ahead, 72-70, with 28 seconds left.
Wosencroft said he considered double-teaming Cagle, but was concerned he would drive and find Jabari Jones (15 points) for an easy layup.
"We wanted to try and make them work for their points. He made some tough shots. I thought we competed and played him pretty tough," Wosencroft said.
Stonington missed a forced shot on its next possession and the Bears were forced to foul Cagle. His free throw made it 73-70 with 7.7 seconds left.
Stonington called a timeout with 4.0 remaining after advancing it to half-court. The Bears had a good look at a 3-pointer at the buzzer that missed.
"It's crazy. We can't just get anything to go our way," White said. "I think we all just have to crash the boards more. We are playing good defense. We are a young team, a building team. I think we can really get it done next year."
Stonington was hurt by Ledyard offensive rebounds throughout the game.
"We have a bad habit of trying to outjump them. And when you are playing against Jabari Jones, it's hard to outjump him because he's at the rim," Wosencroft said. "We have to find a body, box out and go get it."
Stonington's Alex Tobiassen finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Wynn Hammond contributed 10 points.
No. 7 Ledyard will travel to No. 2 East Lyme for an ECC South quarterfinal on Friday.