FAIRFIELD — With 23 seconds to play and Lawrence trailing by two points, the Bulldogs called for a play to get the ball to center Nia Irving. Everybody knew it was coming. Including Cony.

Cony’s defense was so good, so tenacious, that Irving didn’t touch the ball in those final 23 seconds, and the best shot Lawrence could get was a 23-foot 3-pointer in the dying seconds by freshman Dominique Lewis. Incredibly, Lewis swished the shot with two seconds left, and Lawrence stole a 51-50 victory in an Eastern A girls basketball thriller Tuesday night.

“It was stressful,” Lewis said. “I was thinking, ‘We gotta score. We gotta do something.’ Just got the ball and had to shoot it. I didn’t even think about. I just shot it, just let it go.”

It would have been a huge win for the Rams (4-5), who had the ball with a 49-48 lead and 1:04 to go. Emily Quirion (10 points, six rebounds) made one of two foul shots with 30 seconds left to make it 50-48, and Lawrence called timeout with 23 seconds remaining.

“The play was to take it, have them cross pick, and Nia come around and get Nia for the underneath,” Lewis said.

Nothing about the play worked as planned. Sophomore Taylor Reynolds was on the wrong side. When she got the ball on the left and tried to pass it in to Irving (23 points, 15 rebounds), it got swatted back at her.

“A big, huge girl came up, and a big girl was on Nia, too,” said Reynolds, who stands about 5 foot 2. “I forced it, didn’t get there.”

The Bulldogs got a shot for Brianna Soucy, but her inside attempt hit the bottom of the backboard. By chance, the rebound bounced out to Reynolds — the smallest player on the floor — with time winding down. Reynolds passed to Lewis, who drained the hurried shot.

“Just seconds left,” Reynolds said. “I just kicked it out to Dommy. I’m like, ‘What can I do now?’ She swooshed it. What can you do? The crowd goes wild.”

Aside from the first quarter, the game gave every indication of going to the buzzer. Cony used all of its quickness and aggressiveness to score 21 points in the first quarter and lead by as much as 11. Recognizing Irving’s height advantage inside, Lawrence (6-3) forced some passes to her early, and ended up throwing the ball away. But with Irving and Paige Belanger (11 points, 11 rebounds) clearing the glass, the Bulldogs came back and led 31-28 at the half.

Cony’s Josie Lee had nine points in the first half, but on only two field goal attempts. The Rams addressed that in the second half, and Lee shot more and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. Cony also hit nine 3-pointers on 30 attempts, including three by Alyssah Dennett and two apiece by Lee and Hayley Quirion.

In that second half, the game only got tighter. In fact, in the final seven minutes, neither team had a lead of more than two points. During one 15-second sequence, Soucy hit an open layup for Lawrence, Dennett answered at the other end with a 3, and Irving coaxed in a shot while being fouled. That basket, with 3:05 to go, marked Lawrence’s final points until Lewis hit the game-winner.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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