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Final four bound: Conant heads to semifinals

  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Mascenic 48-37 in the second round of the NHIAA DIII playoffs on Thursday, March 6.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Mascenic 48-37 in the second round of the NHIAA DIII playoffs on Thursday, March 6.
  • The Conant boys basketball team beat Farmington 48-28 on Saturday in the NHIAA DIII quarterfinals.

After two big home playoff wins last week, the Conant Orioles take their bid for a repeat championship to the Final Four at Southern New Hampshire University. The No. 2 Orioles will take on the third-seeded Berlin Mountaineers on Friday at 6 p.m.

After a first-round bye, Conant hosted the red-hot upstart Mascenic Vikings in a rivalry game for the ages last Tuesday. Mascenic came into the Pratt and gave Conant one of the best games a visitor has played against Conant all season. The Orioles’ defensive pressure kept every single Viking player under double figure scoring, including Jared Stauffeneker, who was stymied by the alternating defense of seniors Robert O’Brien, Kyle Carland and Nick Panagiotes. Offensively, Eli Hodgson would not be denied; the hulking senior dominated the offensive glass, ripping down an incredible 23 rebounds to go with his team-leading 21 points.

Nonetheless, the Vikings kept it close the whole way. The score was tied 22 apiece at halftime; while Conant pulled away by ten in the third, huge three-pointers by freshman Daimon Gibson, sophomore Roman Ojala and junior Shane Rautiola cut the lead to two with two minutes remaining before the Orioles iced it at the line, winning 48-37.

On Saturday, the Orioles hosted No. 10 Farmington, still riding high off their one-point upset of No. 7 Winnisquam. This game was more like the Conant home games fans are used to; the Orioles led nearly the entire game, behind inspired defense by Carland. Carland is one of the state’s best defenders, and he showed it off against the Tigers, never lagging in the fullcourt press and denying the ball on the halfcourt inbounds to the point that Farmington could not get the ball in play. On one memorable second-half sequence, Carland denied three straight Tiger inbounds passes, deflecting the third in the air to himself; he saved the ball behind his back to Nate Wheeler, got it back, took it strong to the hoop, got fouled and sank both free throws.

“I’m definitely stepping up right now,” Carland said after the game, “knowing that I’m a senior, it’s my last year, my last time to try and make a championship happen for this team. I knew I was capable of doing that, but I definitely had to turn on the switch tonight, especially against Farmington.”

That defensive intensity has always been Carland’s hallmark, and it’s what makes Conant tick.

“I’ve said all year, we go as he goes,” said head coach Eric Saucier after the game. “If he gets the defense going, if he gets steals, he gets us the rock and we get layups, then that brings the energy for everyone else. We set the tone tonight right off the bat and I thought that was what did it, our energy defensively right from the get go.”

With Conant up 20 late, Carland left the game after that defensive sequence to a thunderous ovation; just when it appeared the Pratt could not get any louder, O’Brien brought the house down with a vicious two-handed dunk over a laneful of Farmington defenders. The home crowd’s jubilation continued throughout the final few minutes as Conant cruised to a 48-28 win.

“That’s playoff basketball,” Saucier said. “That’s why we do this stuff. That’s why we work so hard, for games like this, to be able to go to SNHU. The kids work their butt off, they go through my crap, this is why we play all year, for games like this. The atmosphere that we have here and the pride, that’s what it’s all about. And it’s a credit to the kids and the community and the parents.

The senior tri-captains led the way; Hodgson’s 18, O’Brien’s 16 and Carland’s 12 made up all but two of the Orioles’ points that night. It was an emotional final home game for seniors O’Brien, Hodgson, Carland, Panagiotes and Anthony Gonsalves.

“Definitely a lot of heartwarming, good friends here, good family,” Carland said of his Pratt memories. “We’re all family here. I definitely got kind of caught up in the moment, waving my hands up, you know, maybe shed a tear or two. All I can really do is go on, move on and bring a banner back.”

Conant faces No. 3 Berlin and their balanced offensive attack of Levi Arsenault and Brad Frenette on Friday night in the semi-final game. The winner of that matchup will take on the winner of No. 1 Hopkinton and No. 5 Campbell on Sunday at 3 p.m. And while just making it to the semis is big enough, Saucier and the Orioles have had their sights set higher since day one.

“We’re not satisfied,” Saucier said. “I walked in the locker room and said, ‘You guys can be happy, but notice I’m not smiling. This isn’t our goal. You can be proud of making the Final Four, but after tomorrow, we have to go take care of business.’

As usual, Carland and the rest of his squad are on the same page.

“The Final Four is a great accomplishment, but it’s not our main goal,” Carland said. “One game at a time. Don’t get our heads caught up in the clouds, don’t get the hype or anything, just keep on playing game by game and let’s try to win it out. Let’s bring another one home. The hardest thing to winning a championship is to repeat it, so I’m trying to repeat it and show people what the Conant program is all about.”

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