COLCHESTER — Getting eliminated from a state tournament is usually a somber time. But it was easy for Stonington High coach Paulla Solar to find silver linings after a 25-point loss in the Class M girls basketball second round Friday.
Fourth-seeded Bacon Academy ousted No. 20 Stonington, 57-32, in a matchup between the ECC Division II tourney champion (Stonington) and one of the better teams in the ECC.
The Bobcats, a state finalist a year ago and 19-4 now, walloped the Bears by 50 points in a Jan. 17 regular-season game.
Though the Bobcats caused 25-plus turnovers Friday, the rematch proved to be much more competitive, signaling how much Stonington (13-12) has improved since that 78-28 shelling during its 2-8 midseason record.
Stonington's defense gave Bacon fits as well, helping the Bears keep the score respectable after falling behind after one quarter, 16-2.
"You could see the intensity written on our faces this game," Solar said. "We came to play and weren't afraid. We came so far from where we were. Bacon is a seasoned, veteran team out there.
"We really have a lot to look forward to in future seasons because we had one senior, three sophomores and a freshman playing most of the game."
Stonington's defense kept it from getting vaporized early, because the Bears had trouble getting the ball past mid-court against Bacon's half-court trap.
Bacon took a 14-0 lead despite turning the ball over a number of times until Emily Obrey scored for Stonington off an offensive rebound with 2:13 left in the first to break the ice.
"We've had some success turning people over with the half-court trap, which has led to high-percentage baskets," Bacon coach Kevin Fennell said. "We try to take advantage of the length of the team. Having [5-foot-11] Marissa Nudd out in the front of the trap was appropriate. The trap was effective but this was a much more competitive and physical game than the first time we played them."
Nudd, an All-State candidate and Bacon's only double-figure scorer at 21 points a game, scored seven of her game-high 22 in the first quarter. Stonington finally got into some offensive flow when Obrey assisted on two hoops by Katelyn Cadmus (12 points) to cut the Bacon lead to 17-6 early in the second quarter.
After a Nudd basket, Stonington went on a 6-0 run to trail 19-12 on two Rory Risley buckets and Cadmus free throws, with three minutes left in the half.
Bacon took a 29-16 halftime lead and began to wear down Stonington with its trap, scoring 19 in the third, led by Katelyn Novak's seven points, to take a 48-26 lead after three. Still, Solar found positives, especially with the play of freshman guard Leah DePerry, who contributed a couple of assists, steals and a pair of full-court drives for layups in the second half.
"That's very exciting to see a freshman take it the length of the court and sink layups," Solar said. "I can't fault anybody today. This is a great group of kids and we never hung our heads. I have nothing but good thoughts about this season. Playing at Mohegan Sun, getting through the slow start to the season, it was a real character builder."
Risley, a sophomore center, grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Stonington. Obrey had seven rebounds and led Stonington with four assists.
Bacon advanced to the quarterfinals Wednesday against fifth-seeded Coginchaug.
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