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Conant varsity basketball sweeps alumni games

  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys and girls basketball teams took on some former Orioles during the annual alumni games on Nov. 23, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving marks the official start to Conant basketball.

Sure, both teams have already opened preseason camp and spent days practicing, but this day is one that everyone looks forward to-especially the coaches.

It is a time when the former players, many of whom are part of the numerous championship banners hanging on the wall, get the chance to take the Pratt Auditorium floor one more time and challenge the program they used to be a part of. But for the Conant coaches, the game can be used to help improve the team.

“It’s fun to have all those guys come back and play,” said boys coach Eric Saucier. “But we’re also trying to win a basketball game.”

Entering Friday night’s double header, the Conant girls had about a week and a half of practice and a pair of scrimmages, while the boys were just three days into their 2012-13 season.

“It’s kind of like a measuring stick,” said girls coach Nick Hill. “The alumni game is always a good point to see if we have improved on things.”

So even though the competition may not be comparable to any of the competition they would see during the 18-game regular season schedule, it sure did allow for a couple great games in front of a sizeable crowd.

“There’s a sense of pride,” said Hill. “Our team wants to win and they want to beat the varsity.”

Every member of the girls alumni team was part of a state championship during their playing days at Conant, while many from the boys alumni squad reached the same heights. Only two members of the girls varsity has been part of a title winning Conant team and that can only be said for one from the boys, but both units hope to change that in March.

“After last year’s loss, they’re all hungry,” said Saucier.

Yet that is a long time from now and what Friday presented was an opportunity to work on things and earn bragging rights at the same time. And it was the current Conant teams that came out on top. The girls pulled away in the second half to win 57-35 and the boys shook off a slow start to secure an 84-75 victory.

“Offensively I thought we moved the ball well, we shot it well and we made the extra pass,” said Saucier. “Defensively, not happy. I know we’re capable of playing much better.”

For the girls, only eight players are in the program this season and Hill is still trying to figure out what combinations work well together. Only half were on last year’s team that qualified for the Division III tournament, so the more time Hill gets to see the groups on the floor the better.

“Where we are so young, playing as much as possible can only help us,” Hill said. “Anytime we get the opportunity to play against someone else when we can run our offense and play defense it’s beneficial.”

Saucier was in a little bit of a different boat. He had not seen his team play outside of practice, but with his starting five already decided from returning players from last year’s semifinal squad that was not of major concern. But with a revamped bench and a number of younger players, the fifth-year coach still has some unknowns.

“I haven’t really figured out my rotation. My starting five is set, but I’m still looking for the sixth and seventh guys,” Saucier said.

The girls, who played first, led 25-20 at the half despite racking up 12 first half fouls. Over the final two quarters, the varsity wore down the alumni and outscored the veteran group by 17.

“Aside from all the fouls in the first quarter I was happy,” said Hill. “Sometimes our shot selection was not great, but we did all right.”

The Conant boys started slow and trailed 13-2 in the first, as the alumni came out red hot. But slowly, the Orioles chipped away and took a 20-19 lead after the first and extended it to 44-33 at the break. It remained close, but the current Conant team had just a little bit more in the end.

Senior Devin Springfield paced the boys with 22, followed by junior Robert O’Brien’s 18. Freshman Madison Springfield scored 20 for the girls and sophomore Katie Chadbourne added 10.

The girls open up on Dec. 4 at home against D-III runner-up Campbell, while the boys will travel to rival Mascenic on Dec. 11.

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