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Column: Conant freshman shines in debut

  • The Conant girls basketball team takes on Campbell in the season opener on Dec. 4, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant girls basketball team takes on Campbell in the season opener on Dec. 4, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Conant girls basketball team takes on Campbell in the season opener on Dec. 4, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant girls basketball team takes on Campbell in the season opener on Dec. 4, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Conant girls basketball team takes on Campbell in the season opener on Dec. 4, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team takes on Campbell in the season opener on Dec. 4, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

At times during Tuesday night’s season opener, Conant fans likely had a sense of déjà vu.

The number on the jersey looked familiar, as did the last name on the roster and the play on the floor.

But this was not the same No. 21 that dominated Division III for four years. This was not Brooke.

This was Madison, the younger sister of Brooke and current Conant freshman. The newest Springfield to don a Conant uniform had plenty of hype leading into her high school debut — much like her older sister did.

Springfield played JV as an eighth-grader, like Brooke, and dominated. She did the same against the competition during the Orioles’ preseason scrimmages. And her first high school varsity game was no different.

The latest in a long line of Springfields to wear the Conant orange scored a game-high 28 points, pulled down 13 rebounds, had four steals and dished out a couple assists.

Not bad for a first game, where even the most seasoned of basketball players will have nerves running wild. Oh yeah, it also came against perennial power Campbell, who has made it to the last five D-III championship games and is one of the preseason favorites to make it back to Southern New Hampshire University, site of the Final Four.

And now with Springfield in the mix, the Orioles have to be in that conversation as well.

She is already gaining attention from Division I college programs — coaches from Boston College and Marist College were in the stands Tuesday night — and that will certainly continue if her debut is any indication of what is to come over the next four years.

Now I’m not about to compare her game to the elder Springfield. They are just two very different players. Brooke stands at just 5-foot-7 and was made to play the point guard position. She is a pass first, shoot second kind of player and only scored as much as she did while at Conant, ranking first all-time with 1,793 points, because the team needed her to.

Madison is 5-foot-11, according to Tuesday night’s game program, and having interviewed her after the game I would say that is quite accurate. While she can play the point with dribbling skills mirroring that of her older sister, Springfield could really fill any role for the Orioles. She has strong post moves, can get to the basket with relative ease, but has no problem stepping outside to knock down a three.

Campbell’s full-court press didn’t bother her one bit. Nothing seemed to bother her on Tuesday. It was like she had already played the game out in her head and all she had to do was follow a plan.

While Springfield did score more than half of the team’s points, it’s not like she only looked for her own shots. She played within the structure of the offense. Springfield took shots when she was open and drove to the basket when she knew there was an advantage. She also had 13 of the team’s 34 rebounds.

Springfield scored 10 in the first quarter and had 14 at the half. She added seven in each of the third and fourth quarters, when Conant really took control of the game.

It will be fun to watch her get better over the next few years — just like her sister. And while it is very early, it is exciting to think about the possibilities. That is unless you are a Division III coach with Conant on the schedule.

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