In one of the more ironic twists to the CIAC state boys’ basketball state tournament, undefeated New London, ranked No. 1 in the state poll since December, is seeded No. 3 in Class L.
Class L featured three 20-0 teams: Northwest Catholic, Maloney and New London. The Whalers, despite facing a tough non-league slate, somehow finished with the lowest strength of schedule and landed the No. 3 slot. Maloney and Northwest Catholic went on to lose in their conference tournaments, which don’t count toward CIAC seeds.
Therefore, New London, the state’s only undefeated team at 25-0, is the lowest seed and will wear road jerseys in its semifinal at 7 p.m. tonight against 2nd seeded Maloney (24-1) at New Haven Athletic Center (Hillhouse High). WSUB (980-AM) and WXLMFM.com will broadcast the game.
Any writer or broadcaster who would list New London beating the higher seeded Maloney as an upset should have his or her credentials revoked. Though using comparitive scores is not always a measure of relative strength, both teams’ performance against East Lyme would suggest the Whalers are a big favorite.
New London routed East Lyme in its regular season finale, 81-51. In the Class L state second round, East Lyme held a three-point lead over Maloney until a buzzer-beating three-pointer sent the game into overtime. Maloney prevailed in overtime and proceeded to nip Kennedy by two in the quarters.
Thirty-point blowout or OT victory. You decide.
“We noticed the East Lyme score,” New London guard Kris Dunn said. “We’ll just have to come out and play hard and hopefully things will go our way.”
Dunn and backcourtmate Torin Childs-Harris combined for 59 of NL’s 74 points in the 74-56 quarterfinal win over Daniel Hand Tuesday. The Whalers took an early lead thanks to an aggressive pressing defense, though coach Craig Parker was concerned “we didn’t put the game away by going up 22 to 24 points.”
Maloney features a quality backcourt, paced by 1,000-point career scorer Ryan Beloit, but lacks any Division I prospects. Dunn, who averaged 26 points, is a contender for State Player of the Year honors as a junior. University of Rhode Island coach Jim Baran was at the NL quarterfinal to watch Childs-Harris, who lists URI as one of his top college choices. Three years ago, Maloney ousted New London, which featured State Player of the Year Alan Chaney, in the semifinals.
Honors and recruiting are on the backburner now as New London stands one victory away from returning to Mohegan Sun for this weekend’s Class L final (to be announced Thursday) and two wins away from the program’s ninth state title (8 at NL and one at Bulkeley High in 1951).
“All season we’ve been focused on getting back to Mohegan,” Childs-Harris said. “We don’t just want to get there but you have take care of business to make sure you’re there. We know Maloney struggled against East Lyme, but Maloney eliminated us as freshmen in the semifinals, so we have to respect them.”