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Conant back in state finals after win over Monadnock

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant girls' basketball team beat Monadnock at SNHU Wednesday in the NHIAA Division III semifinal game. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Conant girls knocked off one green giant on Wednesday evening, and they have another to topple Saturday for the NHIAA Division III state championship.

The Orioles, led by freshman sensation Elizabeth Gonyea, beat Monadnock 38-34 in the semifinals to earn a second straight title game appearance; they’ll play Hopkinton – who beat Conant twice in the regular season – for the crown.

“It’s amazing,” Gonyea said. “It’s my freshman year and we’re going to the state championship. What more could you ask?”

Gonyea scored a game-high 19 points with four rebounds, two assists and two steals, looking like a seasoned veteran on the big SNHU stage.

“She really is a special player,” said Conant head coach Brian Troy. “She’s got such a great personality, she seems like she lets the game find her instead of trying to make too many plays. I can’t say enough about her. I’m really proud of her.”

Monadnock beat Conant in last year’s finals and split the season series this year. The Huskies started out the semifinal game Wednesday with a hot hand, jumping out to an early 18-8 lead thanks to the shooting of guard Gwen Simpson (3-3, 9 points in first half). But Conant stayed patient on offense and adjusted on defense.

“We just wanted to make sure that we played our game and didn’t get too sped up and in our heads with the crowd, and it being such an important game,” said Conant senior captain Taylor Banish (five points, two steals).

Monadnock was without primary ballhandler Abby May, who tore her ACL just before the Huskies’ quarterfinal game. Her absence created a domino effect of fatigue and threw off the Husky rotation. Sensing that, the Orioles put pressure on Monadnock’s guards and started forcing turnovers.

“Of course they’re going to make a run, there’s no doubt about it,” said Monadnock head coach Curt Dutilley. “We weren’t going to walk away with this thing.”

Conant scored nine straight points in the second quarter to cut the lead to one, and the Huskies were up 20-19 at the half after scoring just three points in the period.

After the break, Monadnock continued to dominate the glass, outreboundingConant 32-15 and scoring 13 second-chance points to the Orioles’ two. And, the Huskies did an excellent job fronting Mariah Chamberlain (nine points) and denying the post entry. But Gonyea kept the O’s chipping away, ducking behind the Husky defense on the baseline only to reemerge with a flash or a slash.

The Orioles took the lead on a three by Silas Bernier (five points, three steals) late in the third quarter, and they wouldn’t trail again. Monadnock missed a backbreaking layup down three in the fourth and it was all over but the free throws.

“Monadnock’s a tough team,” Gonyea said. “Give it to them, they’re the No. 1 seed. But I just knew we needed to come out and beat them today and we thankfully did.”

If Conant (17-4) is to win the program’s seventh state championship on Saturday, the Orioles will have to beat the team that’s given them the most trouble this season. No. 6 Hopkinton (17-4) upset No. 2 Gilford (18-3) 49-25 in the semis. The Hawks swept the season series with Conant and were the only team to beat the Orioles at the Pratt this year.

Tipoff is 4 p.m. Saturday.