New Britain - At no time during his four state championship victories was Craig Parker as emotional - and ecstatic - as the waning moments Monday night, when New London High School had to do everything but crawl over broken glass to keep its season alive.
And there was Parker, like a linebacker on a blitz, charging down his bench near the end of the second overtime, high-fiving and hugging his players. They'd all just witnessed how a certain loss had become a wild, 79-73 victory over Windsor in the Class LL quarterfinals before a hoarse, sellout crowd of 3,200 at Central Connecticut State University.
The fifth-seeded Whalers (but No. 1 team in the state poll), down by as many as 13 in the second half and by 10 with five minutes left, live to play top-seeded St. Joseph of Trumbull in the semifinals Wednesday (7 p.m.) at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
St. Joseph handed New London one of its two losses in December, a game in which McDonald's All-American Kris Dunn and Keith Porter fouled out.
"Windsor is a great program," Parker said in the locker room after the game, sitting on a bench, sipping some water, looking as though he'd just gone 15 rounds. "It was an honor for me to coach against (Windsor coach) Ken Smith. It's a program I respect very much. I thought this might be the best team in the field."
No one was arguing when the Warriors (25-2) built a 13-point lead in the second half. Windsor, seeded fourth but ranked No. 2 in the state media poll behind New London, had the Whalers flustered, even neutralizing Dunn.
New London, which forced seven turnovers in the fourth period, cut into the lead gradually and forced overtime only when Dunn missed an open 14-footer as time expired.
"When we got down 13," New London junior Keith Porter said, "I didn't think we were out of it, but I knew we were in trouble."
It looked worse late in the first overtime when Windsor sophomore Jared Wilson Frame made an NBA-range 3-pointer to give his team a 69-66 lead.
And that's when Doug Henton saved the season for the Whalers.
He countered with a three-pointer with 15 seconds left to tie the game, sending it to a second overtime.
"When (Wilson Frame) shot his three, I said 'off,'" Henton said. "When he made it, he winked at me. I took that personally. I thought, 'I'm going right back at you.'"
Dunn, who finished with a team-high 22 points, said, "Doug's definitely going to remember that one. … Just a wonderful shot."
New London took a 73-69 lead in the second overtime, eventually limiting Windsor to 1-for-8 from the field. The Whalers sealed it on Porter's dunk with a minute left giving them a 77-69 lead.
Porter, part of last season's undefeated state championship team, called this the best win of his career.
"We had to battle consistently," he said. "It was a game to see what we were made of. It's the toughest game we've played."
Dunn reinjured his right shoulder, bothering him since a spill in the conference semifinals against Norwich Free Academy.
He promised "It'll be fine," after the game.
"He's a warrior right now," Parker said.
Dunn had nine rebounds and seven assists.
Henton had 17 points (five 3-pointers) and five steals, Malcolm Simmons had 16 points (six in the overtimes) and Porter finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and six steals.