Conant boys drop 1st game

  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team dropped its first game of the season, 65-63 to Campbell on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

State championships are not won in January.

And that is why the previously undefeated Conant boys basketball team’s 65-63 loss to Campbell on Monday will merely be a blemish in the loss column come tournament time. It might affect the Orioles’ seeding when the 16-team Division III bracket is released in late February, but that’s about it.

For the Cougars, though, it seemed like their come from behind victory over the Orioles ranked right up there with a playoff win on the second Saturday in March — the date of the D-III finals. They certainly celebrated like it after senior Jacob Morgan hit a three with nine seconds remaining to give Campbell its only lead since midway through the first. It was the first loss for the Orioles at Pratt Auditorium since the 2010-11 season.

“We gave up 65 points and that’s not us,” said Conant coach Eric Saucier. “We played undisciplined and now we have to go back to work. We just didn’t execute defensively. It’s that simple.”

Conant senior Devin Springfield’s long jumper with three seconds remaining fell just short. Springfield scored a game-high 23 points, but he sure would have liked to finish with two more.

“It’s definitely a wake-up call,” said Springfield. “We thought we were all that, winning all of our games by 20 points, but we know we can’t just come to play. We’ve got to come to play hard. We let them come into our house and beat us up.”

The Orioles were playing just their second game without senior captain Jake Carlson, who fractured his elbow on Jan. 8 and will miss four to six weeks. But Conant looked primed to make Campbell its eighth straight victim to start the season. Leading 47-32 late in the third quarter, Conant was just a basket or two from sending the Cougars home like the first seven opponents. But Campbell hung around.

“We didn’t buckle down. You can blame it on the fouls, but we just didn’t D-up,” said Springfield.

The third quarter has always been an emphasis of the Orioles, but up until Monday, Conant had not needed to focus on the third. That’s because the first seven games of the season had all been essentially decided by halftime.

Yet even with a lack of close-game experience this year, the Orioles seemed ready to break the game wide open. They had turned a 32-26 lead at the half into a 15-point advantage with about two minutes to play in the quarter and had Campbell on its heels.

Then it all changed. Foul trouble for the short-handed Orioles caused Saucier to switch to a zone, something he admitted after the game they have not worked on very much this season.

“When you’re up 15, you just need stops. We’re trying to steal the basketball and playing undisciplined and we got into foul trouble,” said Saucier. “We had a lot of fouls 30 to 40 feet from the basket, which is not disciplined basketball. It’s not Conant basketball.”

And the Cougars took advantage. Campbell closed the third on an 11-2 run to make it just a six-point game — the same difference at the half.

On five different occasions in the fourth, Conant went up by eight. But each time, the Cougars fought back. With a little less than four minutes left, juniors Robert O’Brien and Kyle Carland connected for a back door lay-up that put Conant up 61-53.

With Campbell scoring the next five points to make it a three-point game, O’Brien and Eli Hodgson ran the pick and roll to perfection with about two minutes left. But that was it for the Orioles’ scoring.

Campbell would get back-to-back baskets from senior Nicholas Freson and junior Jesiah Wade to cut Conant’s lead to 63-62 with over a minute left. Morgan’s strip of O’Brien set up the Cougars’ final possession that ended Conant’s bid to remain undefeated.

“We can learn from this and we can get better from this,” said Saucier.

Defense has been a mainstay for the Conant program for years. It is what the team hangs its hat on, but not the kind of performance the Orioles had on Monday. Through the first 22 minutes, they had held Campbell, who was scoring an average of 68 points per game, to just 32. Over the final 10 minutes, the Cougars scored 33.

“We just couldn’t get stops. Our token is our defense and our defense let us down,” said Saucier. “I challenged them and said, ‘nothing is easy. You can look at this game two ways. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can change and figure out what you need to do to make us better.’”

After Conant jumped out to a 4-0 start, Campbell came roaring back to go up 12-6. The first quarter would end tied at 14 before the Orioles would take the lead early in the second, one that would last until the final seconds of the game.

Down the stretch, the absence of Carlson on both ends of the floor was definitely noticed.

“He knows the offense and what to do in all facets of the game, so whenever you have a guy like that and you lose him, it’s really tough,” said Springfield.

O’Brien scored all 16 of his points in the first half, including a second quarter dunk that put Conant up 26-20, and Hodgson had 10 of his 14 in the second half.

Campbell senior Max Gouveia paced the Cougars with 18, with eight coming in the team’s 22-point fourth quarter.

The teams will meet again at Campbell on Feb. 19.

“We’re counting down the days till we go to their place,” said Springfield.

The Orioles return to action on Friday when they play host to Bow.

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