Published March 05. 2013 4:00AM
Colchester — In its last game, Ledyard faced a zone defense and picked it apart, advancing to the quarterfinals.
It was when Bacon Academy set up in its zone Monday night that things got more difficult for eighth-seeded Ledyard in the Class L high school girls' basketball tournament.
"They drop back into that signature Bacon 2-3 zone," Ledyard coach Adam Baber said. "We couldn't get into a flow. ... Playing it against the No. 1 team in the state is a little different than the No. 9 team in the state."
Ledyard, which played top-seeded Bacon to a 14-14 tie in the first quarter, shot just 3-for-17 in the second and third quarters combined. Bacon, meanwhile, the defending Class L champion, looked comfortable on its home floor, winning 44-36 in a matchup between Eastern Connecticut Conference division winners to get back to the state semifinals.
Taylor McLaughlin, a senior for Bacon (23-2), finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and five steals, shooting 8-for-13, 9-for-9 from the free throw line.
Ledyard, which two years ago had to gut out a win in its regular-season finale to qualify for the tournament at 8-12, finished the season 20-5 with an ECC Medium Division title.
Kylie Fustini played her final game for Ledyard, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Last time the teams played, Dec. 21, Bacon won 68-63 in overtime, handing Ledyard its first loss.
"We knew more about 'em and we kept out of foul trouble, which is good," said Bacon Academy coach Dave Shea, for whom the gym at Bacon is named.
"They've got a lot of good players. I wouldn't want to have to play them every night, that's for sure. ... The semifinals is an accomplishment. Last year (Bacon was) under the radar. This year everyone knows about them."
The teams went back and forth until it was 16-16. It was 20-18 in Bacon's favor when the Bobcats gained the momentum headed into halftime by scoring the final six points.
McLaughlin, headed to play for Division II Southern Connecticut State University next year, converted an up-and-under and completed a three-point play with 1:12 remaining. After getting the ball back, Bacon then held for the last shot and Carlee Putnam (10 points) hit a 3-pointer for a 26-18 advantage.
Bacon outscored Ledyard 4-3 in a low-scoring third quarter, with the Colonels unable to gain any ground, despite stopping the Bobcats.
Ledyard pulled within 33-28 on a basket by Michelle Klinikowski from Fustini. Klinikowski then got a block and Ari Fustini led a Ledyard break and was fouled with a chance to pull within three with 4:14 to play. Fustini missed the front end of the one-and-one, though, and Michaela Siver scored on a drive for Bacon to push the margin back to seven.
"It was hard," Kylie Fustini said. "We weren't rebounding as we should have and we couldn't get as many fast-break opportunities. Their pressure is a lot more than you think. Things didn't seem to go our way.
"Still, just to be able to win the ECC Medium championship ... and I can't remember when Ledyard has been this far (in the state tournament)."
Klinikowski, the star of Ledyard's 50-35 second-round win last week against Torrington, finished with 10 points against Bacon.
The Bobcats will next meet No. 12 Tolland in Friday's semifinals.
"They got us into that grind-it-out type of game. We're not as skilled in the halfcourt yet," Baber said. "For (Bacon), being in the quarterfinals is like a first-round game. They know what it is all about."