Law loses to Kennedy in Class L basketball

The Jonathan Law girls basketball team used its success from the free-throw line to take a 29-27 halftime lead over Kennedy High from Waterbury in a Class L first-round state tournament game at the James Richetelli Sr. Gymnasium in Milford on Monday.

Seeded 14th, coach Dan Young’s Eagles weren’t able to maintain that proficiency from the charity stripe, shooting 4-for-14 in the second half, and 19th-seeded Kennedy advanced with a 62-57 victory.

“We didn’t execute consistently enough on either end of the court,” Young said after his junior-dominated squad saw their season end with a 14-9 record. “Rebounding, I’m not sure the totals, but they can’t be very good.”

Kennedy will take a 13-8 record into its second-round game with Naugatuck Valley League rival Torrington High (19-1).

“The last time was a 45-42 barn-burner,” Kennedy coach Jennifer Deeley said of playing the third seed. “It’s tough to play a team three times. We’ll be looking for a different outcome this time.”

After a turnover-filled first quarter saw Law take an 11-10 lead, the second period was filled with a bucket full of outstanding plays.

For Law, Erin Saley used her athleticism to get to the hoop and Jessica Centore showed off her rebounding skills to score four points.

Laura Dulin used the posted up Kennedy Kopazna to shield off defenders to score two baskets, and Paige Szygiel made a nifty move to score from the baseline.

In turn, Kennedy unleashed its offensive rebounding force with Destiny Prather and Sydney Delgado opening the stanza with put-back baskets, Prather’s a three-point play.

Kennedy scored on 8-of-10 possessions, often times extended by strong work on the boards, and went in front 25-17 with 4:38 left in the first half.

Dulin scored five straight points, Saley assisted on a Centore jumper, and then made 3-of-4 shots from the foul line to tie the game at 27-27.

Law was 15-for-19 from the foul line in the half, as it was rewarded for taking the ball to the rim.

“I didn’t know too much about Law,” Deeley said. “But I saw from the box score that they had three primary players in 4 (Centore), 14 (Dulin) and 22 (Saley). They are unbelievable.”

Amanda Leone, Law’s lone senior and key contributor on the boards, rebounded a Kennedy miss with the clock winding down and gave the ball to Szygiel.

The junior dribbled quickly up court and laid the ball in around a defender as the buzzer sounded for a 29-27 lead.

Kennedy’s Sarah Norwood took over in the third quarter. A junior, she went to basket with abandon and also made a pair of 3-pointers. Norwood’s nine-point effort helped stake her team to a 43-39 lead.

“Sarah can shoot the three, take the ball hard to the basket, she  is a tough match up for any guard,” Deeley said.

Young saw the entire picture. “The majority of points came on driving layups or rebounding layups,” he said. “Then those rare threes really hurt.”

In the fourth quarter, Law was forced to match points with Kennedy as it couldn’t get enough defensive stops.

Hurting Law’s chances was a 4-14 performance from the foul line in the final two quarters. Kennedy was only 6-for-16, but that proved to be enough.

Ragen Shirling-Davis’ three-point play gave Kennedy a 48-42 lead before Centore took a transition pass from Saley on the baseline and turned it into her own three-point play at the 5:47 mark of the fourth.

Kennedy maintained a six-point lead for much of the next three minutes, but after solid defense from Kailee Frank, Saley hit a deep 3-pointer to take the score to 57-52 with 2:02 remaining.

Law came out of the timeout and pressed Kennedy into a turnover that resulted in one made free throw.

With no shot clock to worry about, and in the shooting bonus, Kennedy spread the floor.

Out of a Kennedy timeout, Law’s trap got the ball back but again the Eagles were good on only one of two foul shots.

Still, it was a one-possession game at 57-54 with 54.8 seconds on the clock.

It was 60-54 when Centore turned a steal of an inbounds' pass into a bucket with 24 seconds left.

Law got the ball back, missed two freebies, but Centore was rewarded for her hustling rebound and made two foul shots.

The second was waved off, however, because a Law player stepped into the lane too early. Kennedy led 60-57.

Shirling-Davis hit one-of-two to stretch the lead with eight seconds remaining.

“We celebrate progress and still want to raise expectations,” Young said of Law going from 7-13 a year ago to a state-tourney team in 2015.

Saley finished with 20 points, Dulin 13 and Centore 11. Norwood had 20 points for Kennedy, Shirling-Davis 13 and Lynadia Whiting 10.