Pictured: Liana Salamone drives to the basket against Bacon Academy’s Marissa Nudd. Amber Murphy (1) is at at right. (Photo by Lucille Silvestrini)

By Marc Silvestrini
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

PLAINVILLE – The Bacon Academy girls basketball team outscored East Hampton 19-7 over the final 13 and a half minutes of their CIAC Class M tournament semifinal game Monday to come away with a 30-26 win that sends the Bobcats into Saturday’s championship game.

Bacon Academy will meet Holy Cross of Waterbury, a 57-50 winner over Valley Regional, for the Class M title at Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend.

East Hampton, which won the Shoreline Conference championship for the third consecutive year, closes out its season with a final record of 23-3.

Bacon Academy, a former Charter Oak Conference rival of the Bellringers, is also 23-3.

“We had a lot of difficulty getting to the rim and getting clean looks on offense, especially in the second half,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “We didn’t play through contact very well, we had trouble getting into our transition game, we didn’t even shoot very well at the free-throw line, and that’s something we’ve been great at all year.

“The kids played their hearts out but you’re just not going to win a semifinal game by scoring only 26 points.”

Despite their difficult night at the offensive end of the floor, the Bellringers led by six at the end of the first quarter of play, five at the half, and then built their lead to eight, at 19-11, at the beginning of the third quarter on a three-point play by Jordan Murphy off a pretty feed from Madison Yorker.

But Bacon’s Valerie Luizzi, who would score 10 of her team’s final 19 points, ignited her team’s comeback by scoring seven straight over the next three minutes on a drive through the lane, a 3-pointer from the top of the circle and a pair of free throws to pull the Bobcats to within a point at 19-18 with 3:54 to play in the third quarter.

Thirty seconds later, Marissa Nudd hit a short jumper from the side to put the Bobcats up, 20-19.

East Hampton freshman Liana Salamone responded by hitting a shot from the corner and a pair of free throws to score the last four points of the quarter, putting the Bellringers back in front at 23-20 entering the final eight minutes of play.

Bacon’s Emma Mancuso opened the fourth quarter by hitting a free throw that brought the Bobcats back to within a bucket at 23-21 before Jordan Murphy countered with another layup, this one off a feed from Jackie Russell, to give the Bellringers their final lead of the night at 25-21 with 7:05 remaining.

That lead would not last long, however, as Luizzi drilled another 3 and Nudd scored on a spinning drive through the lane to trigger a game-clinching 9-1 run over the final 5:37.

“We really didn’t do anything different in the second half, the kids just went out there, played hard and turned things around,” Bobcats coach John Shea said. “The only thing we did differently in the second half was make a few shots.”

That wasn’t the case in the first half, as East Hampton’s tough, stingy man-to-man defense kept the Bobcats from scoring a field goal in the first quarter while Salamone popped in six and Jackie Russell added three to give the Bellringers a 9-3 lead after eight minutes of play.

The low first-quarter score was an indication of things to come. Neither team managed to score in double figures in a quarter until the Bobcats rang up 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Two straight 3-pointers from Luizzi and Nudd knotted the game at 9 over the first two minutes of the second quarter before Salamone scored five points and Jackie Russell added two to trigger a 7-1 Bellringers run to close out the half with East Hampton holding a 16-11 lead.

“Tonight we just didn’t get it done,” Russell said. “I have no problem with our effort – we played hard, we played tough, just like we’ve been doing all year, but we just didn’t do enough to get the job done.”

Only three players hit the scorer’s sheet for the Bellringers with Salamone leading the way with 15 points. Jackie Russell added six while Jordan Murphy chipped in with five.

Luizzi led all scorers on the night with 17 points while Nudd added seven.

EAST HAMPTON (23-3)
Delaney Russell 0 0 0, Liana Salamone 5 3 15, Jordan Murphy 2 1 5, Jackie Russell 2 1 6, Madison Yorker 0 0 0, Olivia DeMartino 0 0 0. Totals: 9 5 26.

BACON ACADEMY (23-3)
Emily Ferrigno 0 0 0, Valerie Luizzi 4 6 17, Emma Mancuso 1 1 3, Marissa Nudd 2 2 7, Cara Shea 0 2 2, Katelyn Novak 0 1 1. Totals: 7 12 28.

Score By Quarters
East Hampton…..9 7 7  5–26
Bacon Academy..3 8 9 10–30

3-pointers: East Hampton–Salamone 2, J. Russell 1; Bacon Acadmey–Luizzi 3, Nudd 1.

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