Girls basketball: Wilton has tall challenge in New London

The Wilton High girls basketball team will face a high degree of difficulty when it continues the Class LL tournament today at 6.

The Warriors not only have a long trip to New London for its Class LL first-round game, but will be facing one of the best teams in Connecticut.

“We’re going to have our work cut out for us. New London’s really strong,” said Wilton head coach Rob Coloney, who is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s exciting to get to play a top team in the state,” he said. “We had really good practices over the weekend. We’re not going to quit, no matter what. I think mentally we’re in as good shape as we’ve been all season.”

The 30th-seeded Warriors (12-9) are coming off a 57-37 win over East Hartford in a Class L play-in game.

New London, the third seed in Class LL, is currently ranked third in the state in GameTime CT poll — having spent much of the season at number one.

The Whalers (21-2) are coming off a 53-59 win over seventh-ranked Norwich Free Academy in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I championship game. NFA is the only common opponent, losing two of three games to New London and beating the Warriors in December, 64-42.

The Whalers have been one of the state’s most successful programs in recent years, winning the Class M title in 2014. New London reached the Class L championship game last year, where they lost to Capital Prep 51-48. Over the last four years, New London has a cumulative record of 92-11.

Wilton won the Class LL title in 2015.

The teams are familiar with each other, having scrimmaged each other in December.

A big challenge for Wilton will be the Whalers’ 6’2” senior center India Pagan, the ECC Player of the Year who is committed to play Division I ball at Stony Brook.

Coloney said Wilton really hasn’t seen anyone this season as tall and skilled as Pagan, who has hit the 1,000 milestone for both career points and career rebounds.

Sophomore power forward Xaryia Melendez is another concern under the basket for the Warriors, who don’t have a lot of height.

“We’re going to have to compensate for our lack of size and do some creative things on defense,” Coloney said.

Wilton will also have to contend with New London senior point guard Jade Lucas, another DI commit (Hartford).

The Whalers are physical and athletic, and play an aggressive half-court defense.

“They like to run the ball and they play in-your-face defense,” said Coloney.

While the Warriors have struggled at times throughout the season, their efforts against some of the FCIAC’s best teams gives them confidence going into tonight's game. They took the state’s top-ranked team, Trumbull, to overtime on Feb. 7

“We have played to the level of our competition this year. That’s good and bad. That should bode well for their confidence,” Coloney said. “We want to make sure we come out aggressive and that we can roll with the punches and remember it’s a game of runs.”