P/sunny
72°
P/sunny
Hi 78° | Lo 52°

Conant girls advance to D-III semis

  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant girls basketball team defeated Newfound 55-43 in the Division III quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

It was no secret that the Conant girls basketball team once again wanted to be considered among the best programs in the state.

After making it to the Division III/Class M championship game in three of the previous four years, the Orioles didn’t make it out of the first round a year ago. But with one more win, No. 1 Conant will make its fourth championship game appearance in the last five years.

On Saturday, the Orioles (18-1) built up an early lead over No. 9 Newfound and held off a second half surge to pick up a 55-43 victory in the D-III quarterfinals to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.

“I thought we did a very good job,” said Conant coach Nick Hill. “We had a very good game plan and a good scouting report on them.”

Conant will square off with defending champion and No. 4 seed White Mountains at 8 p.m., following a match-up between No. 2 Bow and No. 3 Bishop Brady. The Orioles did not face White Mountains during the regular season, but split their meetings with the other two semifinalists — defeating Bishop Brady 50-40 on Jan. 11 and falling to the Falcons by three on the road on Jan. 18, the team’s only loss.

“We’re going to be up against the defending champs,” said Hill. “We’ll have to do our homework and be prepared.”

The constant in the previous three trips to the finals has been the team defense. And it is looking to be the staple of another title run. After holding No. 16 Monadnock to 29 points, including just 11 in the second half, in a come-from-behind 35-29 victory in the preliminary round, the Orioles looked ready for the challenge of facing the Bears, who is also known for their aggressive defense.

“A lot of people didn’t press us because they knew we had ball handlers,” said sophomore Katie Chadbourne. “So coming in we got a little flustered, but we knew we could handle it.”

Conant limited Newfound to just two first quarter points and none after the six-minute mark to take an 11-2 lead behind Chadbourne’s five points and four from freshman Madison Springfield. The defensive intensity carried into the second, as Conant increased its lead to 25-12 at the half with Springfield and Chadbourne accounting for 21 points.

“I haven’t had a great shooting season,” said Chadbourne. “And I played so bad last game, so I needed to come out and hit my shots, hit threes because that’s what my role is.”

There was little question that the Bears had a run in them. With seven wins in their last eight games, while scoring almost 52 points a game, they were not going away quietly. Newfound scored more points in the third, 15, than they did in the entire first half, but Conant weathered the storm.

They got two huge threes from Springfield, both times after the Bears pulled to within 11. Chadbourne also had a three after Newfound cut the lead to 31-20 and freshman Sarah Gonsalves scored four points in the final minute and a half to give Conant a 41-27 advantage.

“Girls hit big shots,” said Hill. “It was a real good team effort.”

Springfield left the game with 43 seconds left in the third after picking up her fourth foul, but returned with 6:48 remaining in the game after two straight lay-ups brought the Bears to within 10 — the closest they had been since the second quarter. Springfield, who finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, would foul out with 2:08 left, but the Orioles actually increased the lead without her on the floor.

“I have trust in my teammates and other girls stepped up,” said Springfield.

Chadbourne finished with 16 points and Gonsalves scored 11 with six rebounds. Senior Teresa DiTommaso pulled down 12 rebounds and junior Heather Bilodeau added 11 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end.

“When we all play together, we play our best,” said Springfield. “Tonight everyone did their part.”

For the game, Conant held a 50-19 rebounding advantage and also hit 7-of-10 free throws in the fourth.

The Orioles also held junior Amber Plummer, Newfound’s leading scorer, to just 14 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.

“We made foul shots at the end and that’s what you have to do to win big games,” said Hill.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.