Published March 05. 2013 4:00AM
Glastonbury - It was a case of lost and found for New London in Monday's Class LL boys' basketball tournament opener.
The Whalers lost senior standout Keith Porter to fouls with 4 minutes, 19 seconds remaining, clinging to a seven-point lead.
Then they found some different heroes to carry them past No. 21 Glastonbury, 59-58.
"It was a gutsy game and we hung tough," New London coach Craig Parker said. "And we survived."
No. 21 New London advanced to play at No. 5 East Hartford on Wednesday in the second round.
Porter led the Whalers again, scoring 18 points, but his supporting cast made the winning plays down the stretch. Collin Sawyer scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half and fellow sophomore DeAnte Bruton added 11 points.
No one felt better than Porter, who watched the drama unfold from the sidelines.
"It was just the worst feeling," Porter said of sitting. "I felt I let the team down when I fouled out."
His teammates made him feel considerably better by withstanding Glastonbury's late run.
"It was great," Porter said. "I enjoyed that more than scoring a lot. I always tell them, 'Don't be scared. Just play your game.' ... And they finally started doing it. They're capable of doing that every night."
The game was tight throughout, as New London trailed 21-20 at halftime before surging in front in the third quarter.
Porter's baseline jumper pushed the Whalers ahead for good, 36-34 with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
New London simply outhustled and outplayed Glastonbury in the second half. Only the outstanding play of senior Jordan Butler (30 points) kept the hosts close.
"We told the kids at halftime that we're going to go out and play 16 hard minutes ... and lay it all on the line," Parker said. "It was just an all-around team performance."
Momentum began to shift midway through the fourth quarter when Porter was called for an offensive foul driving down the lane. He fouled out with New London leading 49-42.
It was a bumpy ride to the finish. New London committed three straight turnovers against the press. Butler's three-point play cut the deficit to 53-51 with 2:31 left.
Sawyer's fast break basket increased the lead to four but Butler scored off an offensive rebound to narrow the gap to two again.
Junior Dominique Benson hit two big free throws for New London to extend the lead to 57-53 with 1:02 left.
After Glastonbury's Janvier Johnson buried a 3-pointer to trim New London's lead to one (57-56), Sawyer calmly converted a corner jumper with 34 seconds remaining.
"Once I knew Keith was out - he's our main scorer - I knew I had to step up," Sawyer said. "Once I start knocking down a few shots, I feel so confident that I feel I can make anything."
It wasn't over yet.
Glastonbury had the ball trailing by one but John Russell misfired on a game-winning attempt in the closing seconds. Parker punctuated the win by pumping his fist.
The Whalers gained a huge dose of confidence knowing they could win a tournament game on the road without Porter down the stretch.
"It certainly doesn't hurt us to win this game without Keith Porter out there the last three or four minutes," Parker said. "I'm happy. This team was just the (Central Connecticut Conference) runnerup and we came up and beat them on their home floor."