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Mills overwhelms Old Saybrook, advances to Class M quarterfinals

POSTED March 06, 2014
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BURLINGTON - A loss in the Berkshire League Tournament finals was a disappointment but the Lewis Mills girls basketball team has bounced back in a big way.

The seventh-seeded Spartans got strong performances from Teagan Dunn and Natalie Ruel and turned up the defense to pull away from No. 23 Old Saybrook, 55-35, in the second round of the Class M state tournament Thursday night at Lewis Mills High.

With the win Lewis Mills (19-5) moves on to a Class M quarterfinal matchup with defending state champion Cromwell. The second-seeded Panthers (21-1) advanced with a 47-30 victory over No.18 Stonington on Thursday night.

After sharing the Berkshire League title with Thomaston and Nonnewaug, Mills advanced to the BL Tournanemt title game only to fall to the Bears for the second straight season. The loss stung, but has also served as motivation for the Spartans.

"That was a tough loss and I wondered how we would respond," Mills coach Joe Capitani said. "Would we give up and pack it in or learn from it and led by these seniors we have, that loss has made us better and we have rteally responded."

Those seniors are led by Dunn, who controlled the post and nearly recorded a triple double. She scored 20 points and added 13 rebounds and eight blocks. Time and time again Dunn got Mills a big hoop or a stop on the defensive end and the Rams had no answers.

"Dunn had a great game and they were big and physical and that wore on us a bit," Old Saybrook coach Steve Woods said. "They shot the ball better than I thought we would and they made it tough on us to score and we got frustrated."

Dunn got help as Ruel added 14 points and eight boards while seniors Lesleigh Carter (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Mikayla Penn (six points, eighth assists) also made strong contributions.

Mills led 13-11 after the first quarter and started to pull away in the second. Ruel sandwiched a couple of 3-pointers around a hoop by Dunn to give the Spartans a 28-19 lead with 2:47 left in the second quarter. Mills took a 31-19 lead at the half and led by as many as 19 in the third.

"I was a little nervous at the start, we all get a little nervous at the beginning of games, but we kept our compsoure and played better once we settled down," Ruel said. 

Old Saybrook scored gthe last five points of the third quarter to make it 44-30 entering the fourth but Ruel hit another three to start the final quarter and Dunn scored off a nice feed from Penn to extend the lead to 49-30. The Rams never threatened again and the Spartans are now two wins away from Mohegan Sun.

"We are playing good basketball and I am really proud of how we competed and played physical and composed," Capitani said. "Cromwell will be tough. They are the defending state champs and have some great players, but we will be ready. This team is looking forward to the challenge."

Elizabeth Marshall hit four 3-pointers and scored 12 points for the Rams and Mia Neas scored 11 points before fouling out.

"Give Mills credit, they did what they had to do," Woods said. "They have a good team and they are going to be a tough out."

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