South Windsor Can’t Solve Wilton in Class LL Finals

MOHEGAN SUN-No matter how outstanding of a team you are, it’s hard to win when you shoot very poorly. The task becomes nearly impossible when your opponent shoots very well. In Saturday night’s Class LL girls basketball championship game, South Windsor was forced to experience this painful scenario against Wilton.

The second-seeded Warriors overwhelmed the top-seeded Bobcats 73-45 at Mohegan Sun Arena for their first state title in their debut appearance. South Windsor fell in the finals for the second consecutive season.

Wilton (25-2) shot 50 percent from the field for the game. In contrast, the Bobcats (27-2) shot 17-59 (28.8 %), and hit just 1 of their 15 attempted threes.

In addition, Wilton controlled the boards, outrebounding South Windsor 55 to 24.

The Warriors took control from the opening tip, going on an 8-0 run to begin the game and taking a 19-7 lead just over midway through the first quarter. Wilton’s ball movement helped it to get open shots and score both in the paint and from the perimeter, and their size clearly bothered the much-smaller Bobcats. Erin Cunningham led the way in the first, hitting three three-pointers and scoring 13 points, and it ended with the Warriors leading 26-15.

“To be down 3-0 after 10 seconds is difficult,” South Windsor coach Don Leclerc said. “They got a lot of confidence early on, and once you give a team confidence it is tough to stop the momentum. They started to make outside shots, and we clearly became tight.”

“Those were some daggers by Cunningham,” senior forward Amy McConnell said. “She’s a good shooter. In the beginning, they just started out really strong and it was hard for us to battle back from that. We gave all the effort we had.”

South Windsor did not hit a field goal until the 4.25 mark of the first, but appeared to be gaining some momentum late in the quarter when a series of layups led to a scoring spurt. The Bobcats cut Wilton’s lead to 26-19 in the opening minute of the second quarter, but that was the closest they would get for the remainder of the game.

The Warriors offense continued to hum in the second, while the South Windsor offense became ice cold. It was highlighted by a 13-0 Wilton run. While the Bobcats went all out to try and keep up and were able to obtain some open looks, they were unable to knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. South Windsor shot 3-15 over the eight minutes, and went into halftime trailing 45-25.

While Wilton’s defense deserves significant praise, South Windsor missed a number of open shots during the game they would regularly make, especially layups. Leclerc said the Bobcats made the effort to get good looks; they just did not go down.

“It’s frustrating, I’m not gonna lie to you, but if I had to do it all over again I’d do the same thing,” he said. “They were quality looks, and I dare you to find a coach in Connecticut who’s going to take away layups. Those are high-percentage shots we want our kids to take. We preached attacking the rim all week, and we did it tonight. We just didn’t get the roles.”

South Windsor continued to play with 100% effort during the second half, but was unable to chip into the Warriors comfortable lead. They led 61-34 after the third quarter, and continued to run a fluid offense and make it difficult for the Bobcats offense to find any rhythm.

Wilton had seven players 5-10 or taller to South Windsor’s one, and it showed in the final stats. In addition to their humongous advantage in rebounding, the Warriors scored 38 points in the paint to the Bobcats 26 and led 16 to six in second chance points, helped by 21 offensive rebounds.

“They were able to get up on the glass and get a lot of second-chance putbacks on us, “Leclerc said. “We’ve been outsized in every game we’ve played this year. It’s a big factor, but I think the main problem was that we tried to neutralize them with our speed and when we got to the rim we didn’t finish.”

McConnell led the Bobcats with 12 points, and junior point guard Alex Goslin scored 10. Cunningham had a monster game, finishing with 33 points and 19 rebounds, and set the program scoring record (1,113 points) while doing so. Erica Meyer, who is heading to Providence, had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Leclerc was very happy with how hard South Windsor played throughout the entire 48 minutes.

“I’m extremely proud of the way these girls competed. They never quit or gave up, and that’s Bobcats basketball. We get that attitude from our senior leadership.”

The Bobcats accomplishments this season become even more impressive when you consider that South Windsor graduated eight players from last season’s runner-up squad and was never considered a championship contender.

“No one expected us to be here. Again, I attribute that to our grit and the player’s desire to succeed. They all bought in early, and we just went one game at a time.”

Lauren Biancardi battles a Wilton player for the ball along the sideline.

Lauren Biancardi battles a Wilton player for the ball along the sideline.

Alex Goslin employs her wingspan on defense.

Alex Goslin employs her wingspan on defense.

Amy McConell tries to get off a shot against a taller defender.

Amy McConell tries to get off a shot against a taller defender.

Head coach Don Leclerc prepares to embrace Amy McConnell in the post-game ceremonies.

Head coach Don Leclerc prepares to embrace Amy McConnell in the post-game ceremonies.

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