London ball

The Day – New London wins first NFA loss No. 7 62-60 on Warren’s buzzer-beater

Norwich–New London proved to be tougher than shoe leather this week.

The Whalers also proved Norwich Free Academy wouldn’t run away with the Connecticut Eastern Conference Men’s Basketball Division I title either.

New London trailed the undefeated Wildcats by nine points with more than two minutes left in regulation with senior marksman Rhodia Perry on the bench nursing an ankle injury.

No matter. The Whalers fought back with freshman Savahn Warren making a comeback at the buzzer as New London beat NFA 62-60.

It was New London’s seventh straight win (7-1, 2-1) after a season-opening division defeat at East Lyme.

“(I) work hard,” Warren said. “That’s what I do. I’m always going to jump for the board. I happened to get the kickback to win the game.

Asked how New London were able to win 58-49 with 2 minutes, 22 seconds remaining and get a last chance with 2.7 seconds left in regulation, Warren replied: “I don’t know.”

Freshman Da’Shaun Phillips had 17 points for New London and Perry and Warren both scored 14. Coby Smith added nine rebounds and Marvelt Fleurijeune had eight.

Javen Foster had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the NFA (9-1, 2-1), ranked seventh in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 poll.

Austin Cannon and Tony Williams both added 14 points and three steals for the Wildcats.

Smith’s 3-pointer and Warren’s pullback tied the game at 60 with 40 seconds left.

New London recovered the ball on a rebound from their own field goal with 2.7 seconds left.

Phillips somehow broke free beyond half court on the incoming play, got the cross pass and missed a jumper as he went out of bounds.

Warren grabbed his 11th and final rebound and put the ball up and down.

The Whalers celebrated, then held their breath as the officials discussed the play for about a minute before deciding the basket was good.

“It was out of order,” said New London head coach Craig Parker. “The game was designed for (Phillips) to get the ball. I guess it worked.

“He was going to come out of a loop, take two dribbles and shoot it. The pass was a bit long. I think he did a great job catching the ball to be honest with you. …(Phillips and Warren are) our two freshmen.

It was the second crazy win of the week for New London. Smith made a three-point play with two-tenths of a second left in overtime to beat Stonington on Tuesday, 74-73.

“It is what it is,” said NFA coach Dave Cornish. “We put ourselves in this situation. We took way too many 3-pointers. If we hit, that’s one thing. We weren’t hitting tonight. And our guards are some of the best in the league, so we can get at will if we want to, but we settled for too many threes.”

The NFA had gone wild across the ECC with division wins over Fitch (76-60, Dec. 18) and East Lyme (82-65, Jan. 8). He also beat Waterford, 82-57, on December 23.

“I’ve never been a guy or a coach who says we have to lose to get back on track,” Cornish said. “I think this is one of those times when we have to start going back to the drawing board and playing basketball as a team.

“We had six assists tonight with the guards we have. We had 25 assists on Monday (a 91-59 rout of Killingly) and we had six tonight. Something is wrong with that. We have to do a better job playing the basketball team, that’s all.”

The NFA also only made 12 of 25 free throws.

It was a painful victory for the Whalers. Perry hurt his left ankle with 4:25 left in the third quarter and played sparingly in the fourth before sitting out the final 3:25.

Parker was also knocked down by his team during the post-match celebration and had to be helped out of the gym.

It looked like the Wildcats were going to blast New London out of the gym as soon as they went ahead, 12-1, with over three minutes left in the first quarter.

The Whalers fought back with Smith making a three in the closing seconds to give his team an 18-17 first quarter lead.

“They never gave up,” Parker said. “They gutted it without our top scorer (Perry) for the last quarter and a half or so. It was just a really good win for us, especially because they jumped on us early and made us look like a college team the first few minutes of the game.

“Oh my God. We hung on and came back, and we emptied it.

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