Published March 20. 2014 4:00AM
Ledyard's second-half rally comes up short
New Haven - The reason Ledyard played the tough regular season schedule it did was for Wednesday night at the Floyd Little Athletic Center and the in-your-face pressure of Bridgeport Central.
"To help us prepare for times like these," Ledyard's Phyllip Thomas said.
But it was hard to simulate the quickness of the Hilltoppers, the No. 2-seeded team in the Class LL state tournament, who caused 14 turnovers in the first half against the Colonels, getting a pair of dunks from Sha'quan Bretoux and leading 37-21 at halftime.
"We're used to playing against the press, but not a press as hard as this," Thomas said. "I don't even know the word. It's the hardest we've seen all year at least."
The sixth-seeded Ledyard High School boys' basketball team was eliminated from the postseason Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class LL state tournament, falling to Bridgeport Central 67-55.
Ledyard, which moved up two divisions from competing in Class M in the postseason a year ago, trailed by 21 points in the second quarter before pulling within five early in the fourth with DeAnte Bruton leading the front of a three-on-one fast break.
Bridgeport Central, which got 24 points from Bretoux, a 6-foot-3 senior, advanced to meet No. 1 Fairfield Prep in the championship game at 8:15 Saturday night, to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Hilltoppers are 26-1.
"We thought we had 'em for a while," Thomas said. "We talked at halftime about taking it one at a time, one stop at a time, and we did. But we missed a couple of layups and we were back where we started. We couldn't come back from that."
Ledyard's best stretch came over a three-minute span from the end of the third quarter until 40 seconds into the fourth when Bruton's layup made it 47-42. Bruton had five points during an 11-point run and Thomas had four. It was Dom Benson's layup off a loose ball with 8.1 seconds in the third which carved the lead to single digits.
Within five, however, Bruton missed the front of a one-and-one from the foul line, Darnay Gray missed a layup and Bridgeport Central snapped out of a momentary offensive funk, scoring seven straight points capped by a 3-pointer from Bretoux. That put the Hilltoppers back ahead by a 54-42 margin.
Gray, one of four seniors, and Thomas scored 17 points each for Ledyard, which finished the season 21-5. The Colonels upset No. 3 Crosby on its home floor in the quarterfinals Monday, 70-62, to advance. Also leaving the Ledyard team are seniors Benson, Khary Childs and Eric Young.
"A few possessions here and there and it's a tie ballgame," Ledyard coach Dave Cornish said. "I think we got a little too excited. … We dug ourselves a hole. That's why I love this team so much, they fought 'til the end. They started believing we would win this game.
"But (Bridgeport Central is) as good as advertised. They made shots. They made 3s. They got the box outs. They were relentless on the offensive glass and we didn't box out. They're quick."
Still, Cornish said, there was the possibility down 33-12 early and Bridgeport Central on an 18-2 run, that things could have gotten ugly, especially in light of the fact that run included four 3-pointers and two dunks.
The Colonels' defense allowed Bridgeport Central's offense just 10 points in the third quarter, though.
"Twenty-one and five and the LL semifinals Everyone thought we were crazy (for requesting to be placed in Class LL)," Cornish said.
"They accomplished a lot this season whether they know it or not. I'm proud of these guys."