As ConVal and Conant basketball fans poured into the Pratt on Saturday, every fifth entrant received a string of beads. The significance? One in every five people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, according to a recent study.
Those same odds were in play on the court, too, as at least one starter from every team which played in Saturday’s Hoops For Hope fundraiser could tell a tale of how cancer has affected their lives. Take Grace Chadbourne, for instance. The Conant girls’ senior co-captain’s mother, Michele, is battling cancer, and after her halftime speech, dry eyes were harder to come by than points against an Oriole press.
Michele urged the crowd to live for today. Tomorrow isn’t promised, when cancer is so prevalent, she said.
“Today is really the only day that matters, so don’t forget that,” Michele told the packed house.
Or take Isaac Bacon, the ConVal co-captain who’s got his own personal understanding of how cancer can affect lives.
“I know from experience that there’s a huge rally when an individual has cancer,” Bacon said. “The whole community rallies with them individually, and you don’t really see that from day to day, but this was a great example of how much we care about these individuals and how much we all love them and want to do the best thing for them.”
This, the eighth year of the Hoops For Hope fundraiser, was the most successful from a financial standpoint, despite the game being rescheduled twice due to winter weather. Between the sea of pink shirts sold in advance and at the door, raffles and donations, over $5,800 was raised — the most in event history, and $2,000 more than last year’s event at ConVal. The money will be donated to local families who have been affected by cancer.
On the court, there was plenty of action to satisfy every pink-clad basketball fan. New this year was the addition of a unified game between ConVal and Conant, which the Cougars won 38-17.
Next up was the girls’ game, which saw ConVal keep it close for the first half before struggling to score in the second. Cougars star Lindsey Carey rained three-pointers on her way to a team-high 19 points, but ConVal had no answer for Conant’s Mariah Chamberlain in the paint. Chamberlain scored a game-high 24 as Conant won 56-32.
The boys’ game turned out to be the most competitive of the day, and indeed, one of the best games between ConVal and Conant since the Hoops For Hope tradition began.
ConVal found great success in the 2-3 zone, despite Conant’s perimeter shooting prowess, using guards Cam Buffum and Ben Henry to harry the Oriole ballhandlers. Conant would eventually break through, with senior captain James Record (17 points) driving to the hole and freshman Peyton Springfield (12 points) waiting on the wing for three-point opportunities (he’d hit four).
It was 41-38 ConVal heading into the fourth, but Conant quickly pulled ahead, spreading the ball around to four different scorers in the quarter. Meanwhile, only Bacon (13 points) had scored for ConVal as the Cougars found themselves down four with under a minute left.
Uncharacteristically, Record missed the front end of a one-and-one, and ConVal pulled to within three at 51-48. The Cougars needed a turnover or a quick foul. It looked like they’d gotten the former, as Drew Marro tiptoed along the sideline in front of his bench and appeared to travel, but it wasn’t called and ConVal settled for the latter, swiping at Record and sending him to the line for another one-and-one. Record missed another front end and ConVal had the ball with 15 seconds left, down by three.
After a timeout, ConVal ran Buffum around the left side of the arc, got the ball in to him and the senior guard launched an off-balance three before going sprawling into the wall and not immediately getting up, the ball caroming off the side basket support. Buffum would stay down as EMTs treated his shoulder and the referees conferred on the call. The ball was tipped by Conant, they ruled, and ConVal would get one more shot with 0.7 seconds on the clock.
Bacon inbounded to Liam Baldwin, lobbing it over Conant’s defense, Baldwin, in the gym where his father Scott set Conant’s all-time career scoring record, pulled the ball down, faded away and fired.
“I had total confidence in it,” Bacon said. “I knew from the moment he got it that it was a good shot.”
The ball soared, dropped and went all the way down into the hoop — before rattling back up and out as the crowd shouted in a combined agony and ecstasy.
“That’s basketball,” Bacon said. “It’s a game of millimeters.”
Baldwin finished with a game-high 22.
No matter whether you were a Conant or a ConVal fan, everyone walked away happy after a game that exciting for a cause that noble. As the event’s name suggests, there was plenty of hope to be found that day, as Michele Chadbourne expressed during her speech.
“The cure for all cancers is out there,” she said, “and we’re all part of the crusade.”