While it was not Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman, Gabby Ledbetter got off to a smoking hot start for New London, but her 6-foot-3 body could not hold up.
Meanwhile, Seneca East attacked the Wildcats at all angles and ran away with a 60-34 victory in a Division III sectional title game on Saturday at Lexington High School.
"Anybody that knows us or watched us play the last two years knows that Gabby has to contribute," New London coach Eric Mitchell said. "Gabby has to score for us and Gabby did every bit of that tonight. You do not see many 6-3 girls posts play that much and not complain."
The Wildcats finish the season at 8-15.
"We knew Seneca East was going to bring the pressure," Mitchell said. "They do it very well. That is their M.O. That is what they do very well and that allows them to be who they are."
Seneca East (21-2) started to assert itself late in the second quarter as Ledbetter started to wear down. Consecutive buckets by Ledbetter drew the Wildcats within 17-16, but the Tigers took over from there. Jessica Bowerman and Alexis Hicks each hit two free throws before Emily Siesel scored a layup then grabbed a steal for another bucket and 25-16 lead at halftime.
"I think we got tired," Mitchell said. "Maybe even more than physically tired — I think we got mentally tired."
The run for the Tigers continued into the third quarter. Marisa Molnar banked in a shot for New London, but Marina Adachi hit a 3 before baskets from Caylin Quiggle and Adachi opened a 35-20 lead.
"Seneca East turned up the heat with their pressure in the second half," Mitchell said. "I think that led to a lot of our breakdowns. They got after us in the second half."
Seneca East led, 39-23 after three quarters, but the Tigers took their game to another level in the fourth quarter. Ledbetter opened the quarter with a score, but Seneca East ripped the game open with the next 17 points.
"We talked at halftime about things we needed to do to adjust to New London's zone," Seneca East coach Don Vogt said. "I did not think we were screening enough on the top of it. We were not attacking the block like we could have."
Bowerman started the run with three straight hoops before jumpers by Adachi and Quiggle made it 49-25. Adachi then picked off a pass and hit a jumper before two free throws from Makenna Depinet. Megan Rife then canned a 3 to finish off the spectacular run.
"We got five-second calls and 10-second calls," Vogt said. "I think us turning up the pressure helped. We had a 21-2 run there that was fueled by New London's turnovers."
The teams played evenly for the first quarter. Quiggle made two free throws for a 7-2 lead, but Ledbetter scored back-to-back hoops and Molnar hit a jumper to tie the game at 8 after one quarter.
"I thought we did a decent job on Seneca East's penetration," Mitchell said. "They shot the ball really well tonight from the outside."
That 3-point shooting of Seneca East took over in the first half of the second quarter. Bowerman hit two triples and Bailey Hamilton added one from the top of the arc for a 17-12 lead with 5:17 left in the second quarter.
"I know there darn well is not a person in this gym that thought we would beat Seneca East," Mitchell said. "They almost beat Margaretta and they are a great team. I loved the effort my girls brought tonight."
New London shot just six free throws, but they all came in the last 2:21, well after the game was decided.
"It’s not surprising," Mitchell said. "It has been frustrating all year. We do not have enough girls that will attack. That is something that has to improve."
Ledbetter paced the Wildcats with 18 points and eight rebounds. She only scored four points in the second half.
"Ledbetter is a good player," Vogt said. "She is 6-3 and we do not have 6-3 players. I think once we adjusted our zone, our kids did a nice job when we took the attention off of her."
Bowerman led all scorers with 20 points. She also grabbed six rebounds and added three steals, while Adachi scored 14 points and dished five assists.
NEW LONDON (8-15)
Korah Schmidt 1-0—2, Kiaya Thierry 1 4—7, Marisa Molnar 2-0—4, Megan Conrad 0-1—1, Gabby Ledbetter 9-0—18. TOTALS 14-5—34.
SENECA EAST (21-2)
Megan Rife 1-0—3, Jessica Bowerman 7-4—20, Emily Siesel 2-0—4, Bailey Hamilton 1-0—3, Marina Adachi 6-0—14, Brooke Bordner 1-0—2, Makenna Depinet 1-2—4, Caylin Quiggle 2-2—6, Alexis Hicks 1-2—4. TOTALS 22-10—60.
New London 8 8 7 11 — 34
Seneca East 8 17 14 21 — 60
3-point FGs: (NL) Thierry; (SE) Bowerman 2, Adachi 2, Rife, Hamilton