STONINGTON — New London's girls basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the state for plenty of good reasons.
The Whalers play pressure defense, they have quick hands, they have inside players, they have outside players. They play smart and they are athletic.
All of that was on display Saturday night when the Whalers took apart Stonington High, 69-45.
New London, the top-ranked team in the GameTimeCT statewide media poll, moved to 10-1. The Whalers' only loss was on the road to South Kingstown, the WCCU Holiday Basketball Tournament champion.
The Whalers played a variety of defenses against the Bears (8-3). They played man-to-man and also trapped at half-court out of a 3-2 zone. Everything seemed to work.
During a 12½-minute stretch starting with the second quarter and ending about halfway through the third, Stonington manged just three field goals. The Bears like to run the fast break and score in transition. That did not happen once during the first three quarters.
New London contested many shots, and came up with deflections and blocks on the defensive end.
"We had some spurts where we really played good defense, and sometimes we didn't play good defense," said New London coach Holly Misto, a former coach at Westerly High. "Overall, I'll take that. The biggest thing that bothers me now is we get steals and we turn the ball over. They have to value the basketball a little bit more than they are."
Stonington coach Paulla Solar said the Whalers hurt the Bears with their offensive rebounds. New London scored 10 points on offensive rebounds and another 24 on layups or shots around the basket through the first three quarters.
Many of those New London possessions were extended by offensive rebounds.
"You have to realize when you play an athletic team like that you are really going to have to stand out on your box-outs because they will jump over you," Solar said. "They are very athletic, they are quick and they are quick with their hands."
Stonington cut the New London lead to four points, 18-14, on a 3-pointer by Zoe Ribeiro (10 points) with about eight seconds left in the first quarter.
But New London's Da Jah Wuzzle answered with a 3 of her own at the buzzer to make it 21-14 after one quarter.
The Whalers outscored Stonington 10-2 to open the second quarter and stretched the lead to 15 points, 31-16. Their lead was 35-18 at the half.
New London was able to find Taina Pagan (16 points) at the high post against Stonington's 2-3 zone. She was able to find open teammates from there.
New London outscored Stonington 12-4 over the first four minutes of the third quarter to take a 47-22 lead.
Xaryia Melendez, who was in some foul trouble in the first half, had six points in the spurt on strong moves around the basket. Melendez, who also came up with some steals in the back of the Whaler zone, finished with 16.
"I thought our post players played well, dominated," Misto said.
Solar saw things to be pleased with. Kate Johnson led the Bears with 12 points on a number of strong drives to the basket.
"I didn't see one ounce of my kids quitting," Solar said. "It's a great experience for the kids for the [state] tournament. Hopefully, we don't see anybody that quick and athletic. I'm really proud of the girls."
Miranda Arruda followed Johnson in scoring with 11 points. Post player Izzy Yarnall, who had not played this season due to an injury, returned for this game.
Aliza Bell, who missed the NFA game on Tuesday due to illness, also returned Saturday. She finished with 10 rebounds.
Stonington next hosts Fitch on Tuesday at 6 p.m.