BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
NEW LONDON — John Hellige knew that New London liked to feast on turnovers.
The three turnovers Hellige’s Holy Trinity boys basketball team had in the final 60 seconds of the first half of Tuesday’s game were like red meat to the Tigers.
A quick burst by New London at the end of the first half carried over into the second half, and the Tigers pulled away for a 71-53 win.
Holy Trinity was down 26-22 with the ball with less than a minute to go, but had three empty possessions with the turnovers. New London converted those into five points, and swiped any momentum the Crusaders had after trimming the lead.
“When you turn the ball over against New London, turnovers are layups,” Hellige said.
It was a half of missed opportunities for the Crusaders (10-10 overall, 8-8 SEI Superconference South Division).
“We missed a few bunnies there in the first half, and a couple of free throws,” Hellige said. “You make those, you go into the half up one, maybe down a couple, and we’re not playing catch-up the whole second half.”
Instead, the Crusaders were chasing the Tigers (15-4, 14-2), who clinched the division title with the win. New London outscored Holy Trinity 40-31 in the second half.
Holy Trinity was able to shut down sophomore guard Blaise Porter in the second half. Porter had 13 in the first half, but only three in the second half.
But Kade Benjamin had 19 of his 23 points in the second half, and Devin Swanson had 14 of his 23 in the half.
“We held Porter in the third quarter, but kids like Swanson and Benjamin stepped up and made shots,” Hellige said. “We weren’t able to slow those two down tonight.
“There’s some weapons there. You can pretty much count on Benjamin and Porter being there night in and night out. You kind of hope one of the other players has an off night.”
The Crusaders were off early, falling down 18-9 in the first quarter. Hellige used two timeouts in the quarter to try to get something going.
“We were just a little lethargic, and I was surprised by that,” he said.
Jason and Vasin Thurman each had 14 to lead Holy Trinity. Chandler Rung had 11.