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Conant girls win battle of unbeatens

  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Bishop Brady 50-40 on Friday, Jan. 11, 2012.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

JAFFREY — It was a game that not only intrigued those associated with the Conant and Bishop Brady girls basketball programs, but the rest of Division III as well.

With two of the three remaining undefeated teams squaring off at Pratt Auditorium on Friday night, it would answer a lot of questions about the teams currently sitting atop the standings. And when the dust settled, it was the Orioles who remained unbeaten after a 50-40 victory.

The win improved Conant to 8-0 on the season, putting them in a tie with White Mountains, last year’s D-III champion, for first place. The loss dropped the Giants to 8-1 overall.

“I thought it was a good test,” said Conant coach Nick Hill. “It was a big game. There was a lot of growing up, a lot of maturing in this game.”

What it really came down to was late-game execution in a tight game. The Orioles had been in the situation just a week before in a four-point win over Fall Mountain. But in Bishop Brady’s previous eight games, none had been decided by fewer than 18 points.

“It was really important to us,” said freshman Madison Springfield. “It told us where we are in our season. We knew they were going to be a good team, so we came out with our full force and came to play.”

And with the game on the line, Springfield took control. With her team trailing by two late in the third quarter, Springfield calmly drilled a three for a one-point lead with eight minutes to play.

To start the fourth, Springfield found a hole in the Giants’ defense, slipped into the corner and swooshed her fifth triple of the game. Following Sarah Thomas’ lay-up for the Giants, Springfield once again knocked down a three to make it a 41-36 advantage — the largest of the game up to that point. She finished with 28 points, shooting 6-of-8 from three, with 11 rebounds.

“Big-time players hit big shots and that’s what she did,” said Hill. “Those threes were huge.”

While Conant scored 15 in the fourth, the final nine came from the free throw line with less than three and a half minutes to play. But the important piece was that the Giants couldn’t get anything going against Conant’s defense.

“We went into it knowing it was going to be tough, knowing it was going to be close, so being able to work together as a team through the whole game and get the win is huge,” said senior Margaret Maloy.

The Orioles were tipping balls, forcing bad shots and turnovers. They had improved their play on the boards and eliminated the second chance opportunities that hurt them early.

“I love when out defense is active,” said Hill.

Up until the fourth quarter, Bishop Brady’s largest lead was five in the first, and Conant’s four-point edge came early in the second. Besides that, neither had been up by more than three over the first 24 minutes. The Orioles led 14-13 after the first, trailed by two at the half and took a 35-34 advantage into the fourth.

“They threw a lot at us and it was good to see how the girls would react,” said Hill.

But with the Giants scoring just six point in the fourth and the last four coming in the final minute with Conant up by eight, the Orioles had done all the necessary things needed to win the intense battle.

“It was a good defensive effort by all of us,” said Springfield. “We play even harder defense when we are up late.”

For Springfield, it was just another great performance in her young career. She scored 10 of Conant’s 14 first quarter points and had 14 at the half. But she did not do it all alone.

Senior Teresa DiTommaso scored a season-high 14 points with four rebounds and four steals. Maloy chipped in six points, including four free throws in the final minute that helped Conant secure the win, with a team-leading six assists and two steals.

The road does not get any easier for the Orioles. Tonight Conant travels to Campbell (8-2) in a rematch of its season-opening 55-37 win before making the trip to Bow for the only match-up with the 11-win Falcons.

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