Conant boys grab 2nd seed in D-III

All the Conant boys basketball team needed was a win in its regular-season finale to guarantee a spot in the top two of Division III.

And the Orioles locked up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming D-III tournament with a 70-37 victory over Bow on Friday. They finished 17-1 on the season and were just one point behind Berlin, which was also 17-1, for the top overall seed. Newport, the third team in D-III to finish with a 17-1 record, is the third seed.

Now the quest for the program’s 10th state title begins.

“They all want that one final goal,” said coach Eric Saucier.

Conant closed out the regular season with 10 straight wins and earned the right to host two home playoff games.

“That’s huge,” said Saucier. “We found out how important that is a couple years ago at Somersworth in OT.”

The Orioles stood at 7-0 before blowing a double-digit second half lead to Campbell on Jan. 14 in a two-point loss. In the rematch last Tuesday, Conant dominated in a 33-point victory.

In Friday’s win, Conant held a 42-22 lead at the half and then limited Bow to just 15 points over the final 16 minutes.

Senior Devin Springfield scored a game-high 28 points to move into 14th place on the all-time Conant scoring list and also grabbed seven rebounds. Junior Robert O’Brien scored 11 and junior Eli Hodgson had 10 points and six rebounds. Senior Jake Carlson added eight points and six assists.

All 17 of the Orioles’ wins came by double digits with the closest margin of victory being 16. For the season, Conant averaged a little over 72 points per game and had six games in which they scored 75 points or more.

“I expected us to play well this season,” said Saucier. “But it’s got to be everybody. It’s got to be the whole team.”

Defensively, the Orioles allowed 39.7 points per game and held eight opponents to 35 points or fewer. After a stretch of allowing over 50 points in three out of four games, Conant played much better defense over the final four games. They limited Fall Mountain to 21 points on Feb. 15, one of four teams Conant kept below 30.

“If we can continue to play defense, we’re going to be OK,” said Saucier. “That’s going to be our staple.”

Last year, the Orioles were the No. 2 seed with a 17-1 record, but fell to Prospect Mountain in the semifinals. Conant will host the winner of tonight’s first-round game between No. 15 White Mountains and No. 18 Monadnock on Thursday at 7 p.m. With a win on Thursday, the Orioles would host the quarterfinals on Saturday.

Conant last won the D-III title in 2010. The goal is to return the championship plaque to Jaffrey.

“When you put on that Conant uniform, boys or girls, there’s high expectations,” said Saucier.

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