New London wins WIAA Division 2 championship
The Bulldogs beat Luxemburg-Casco 53-45 on Saturday to take home the school's first WIAA Division 2 girls championship title, after twice losing to the Spartans during the regular season.
Tara Knapstein scored 13 points to lead New London (25-3). Brooke Fitzgerald chipped in 11 points, while Emily Steffenus added 10 points to lead New London's four reserves, who scored a combined 24 points.
"We were ready to take them on," Knapstein said. "We knew we had to pull it together."
"Our team is based on being a family," Fitzgerald added. "We knew it was a matter of stepping up, everybody doing their roles. We did that this game."
Luxemburg-Casco's Janelle VandenPlas led all scorers with 20 points, while Kelsey Joniax added 13 for the Spartans (26-2).
New London jumped to a 26-18 lead at the half thanks to sharp 3-point shooting. Five of the Bulldogs' six baskets in the first quarter were from beyond the line, with Knapstein perfect on her two tries. The Bulldogs, who hit eight of 15 3-point tries, were six of 12 from beyond the line in the first half.
That was a big change compared to the teams' last meeting, when the Bulldogs hit just one of 24 tries in a 41-26 loss.
"Those 3-pointers gave them a lot of confidence," Spartans coach Brett Killion said. "As soon as they saw those first two or three go in, you could see that look in their eye that said they were playing well."
Luxemburg-Casco struggled when VandenPlas picked up her second foul and was forced to the bench with 1 minute left in the first quarter. VandenPlas, who came into the tournament averaging 22.1 points per game, still finished the first half with 11 points. VandenPlas hit five of seven shots in the first half, but the rest of her teammates combined to hit just three of 18.
The Spartans twice cut the lead to three points in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs' clutch 3-point shooting helped them take a 41-34 lead into the fourth quarter. Steffenus and Fitzgerald each hit 3-pointers in the final 2 ½ minutes of the quarter.
The Spartans narrowed the lead to 49-45 with 42 seconds remaining, but Knapstein and Morgan Steinert each hit two free throws to finish the scoring.