Sometimes a loss can be good
If you saw the same faces after Monday night’s Conant boys basketball game as I did, you would probably be thinking the same thing.
Now I’m not talking about the fans, who all looked a bit in shock after Campbell stunned the previously undefeated Orioles 65-63 on a go-ahead 3-pointer with nine seconds left. No, I’m talking about the players.
And it wasn’t the look of disappointment as they walked off the floor. No, this was one of intense motivation after they emerged from the school’s cafeteria following their post-game meeting with coach Eric Saucier.
None of them said a thing as they made the short walk to the locker room. There was very little change as many walked past during my interview with Saucier. It may have been different once they reached the doors to Pratt Auditorium where family and friends still remained, but I saw it.
I saw a group of very talented basketball players ready to learn from what had just happened. Ready to prove that kind of loss won’t happen again.
This loss could have actually been a very good thing. It should be the driving force behind the rest of their season.
Maybe the Orioles got a little ahead of themselves. Having dismantled every opponent leading into the game. I can see it would be an easy thing to do. They were averaging 72 points per game and beating opponents by 36. The closest game of the season was a 17-point defeat of Hopkinton on Dec. 21.
Unfortunately for the rest of Division III, I don’t think it will happen again. Saucier said he challenged his players to be better. This group has the capability to be much better.
What it came down to on Monday was a lack of discipline on the defensive end, which is surprising for a Conant team. It is what the program is built on and a huge reason for all the success over the last decade or so.
But that was not a typical performance. For 22 minutes it was. The Orioles had held Campbell to just 32 points and led by 15 with only two minutes left in the third. Over the final 10 minutes, the Cougars scored 33 and held Conant to just 16.
And I’m going to give Campbell some credit. They could have just as easily thrown in the towel and allowed the Orioles to run away with yet another victory. But the Cougars were in the exact same situation as Conant is now. They were coming off their first loss of the season and looked like a team that did not want to make the same mistakes twice.
Now I’m not about to sit here and make excuses, but at full strength, Conant wins that game. If senior captain Jake Carlson is on the floor, there is no way that 15-point lead is erased. Carlson does all the little things on offense and is a crucial piece to the full court press. There is no question his presence was missed.
Yet with all that said, this loss was a good thing. It brings the Orioles back down to earth. It helps them realize that every night requires their best effort and there is little margin for error.
And if the rest of Division III thinks Conant is going to have another lackluster defensive performance again this year, they might want to think again.