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Conant’s Carlson pursues final goal

  • The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Conant and Mascenic varsity basketball teams played a double header, which also acted as a Hoops for Steve fund-raiser, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Conant and Mascenic varsity basketball teams played a double header, which also acted as a Hoops for Steve fund-raiser, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Conant senior Devin Springfield reached the 1,000-point milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Conant senior Devin Springfield reached the 1,000-point milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Conant senior Devin Springfield reached the 1,000-point milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    Conant senior Devin Springfield reached the 1,000-point milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant boys basketball team defeated Coe-Brown 74-42 to win the Red Division title at the Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament at Keene State College on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant and Mascenic varsity basketball teams played a double header, which also acted as a Hoops for Steve fund-raiser, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Conant senior Devin Springfield reached the 1,000-point milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Conant senior Devin Springfield reached the 1,000-point milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

If you asked Conant senior Jake Carlson what means the most to him on the basketball court, it doesn’t take long to get an answer.

The only thing Carlson cares about is winning and what he wants more than anything is four more wins to finish his high school career on top.

“All I want right now is a championship,” said Carlson. “That’s what I’m focused on.”

Carlson grew up in the glory days of Conant basketball. The program won the last of its five straight Division III/Class M titles when he was a freshman on the junior varsity team. Since then, the Orioles have lost in the quarterfinals and semifinals — two games Carlson doesn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about.

It is all about the here and now for the senior co-captain, something he learned from Conant coach Eric Saucier. Tonight, Carlson and the No. 2 seeded Orioles will host No. 18 Monadnock in the Division III Second Round. Conant already defeated the Huskies twice by an average of 33.5 points.

“Coach always says we need to take it one game at a time,” said Carlson. “And this is when it matters.”

If the Orioles defend their home court, they will have a chance for a little revenge in Saturday’s quarterfinal round against with the winner of No. 7 Somersworth and No. 10 Prospect Mountain, the last two teams to defeat Conant in the playoffs.

Since arriving at Conant, Carlson has made it his goal to add to the long history of championship squads. Basketball became his top sport and eventually his only one. And with only four more possible games left in his high school career, Carlson plans on making the most of it.

“I just need to work harder than my opponent,” said Carlson. “We have to work harder than anybody else. That’s the only way we will reach our goal.”

As the No. 2 seed with a 17-1 record and riding a 10-game winning streak, Conant is among the favorites to reach Southern New Hampshire University — the site of the semifinals and championship game.

Carlson would give anything for a spot in the title contest and a chance to put another banner on the walls of Pratt Auditorium.

“There’s no easy games from here,” said Carlson. “When it comes to the playoffs, it comes down to who wants it more.”

But at one point this season, his senior year looked to be in jeopardy. The date was Jan. 8 and the opponent was Hillsboro-Deering. Like so many times before, Carlson drove to the basket and took a hard foul. He made the shot but came down hard on his right elbow.

He stayed in the game, but left at halftime for X-rays, which revealed a fracture of his shooting elbow that would sideline him for four-to-six weeks.

Saucier told him to shoot for the trip to Campbell on Feb. 19, the second to last game of the regular season. Carlson was set on returning Feb. 1 against Raymond — which he did.

“I’m actually surprised at how fast I came back,” said Carlson.

In all, Carlson missed five games, including Conant’s only loss of the season — by two points — at home to Campbell on Jan. 14.

“The games were tough, but not being able to go and practice with the team was the hardest part,” said Carlson.

While it was difficult sitting out, Carlson said he picked up on a lot of the little things that a player can’t see when they’re on the floor.

“We talked all the time and I think he saw what we needed to do,” said Saucier. “He realized a lot when he was out.”

And anything that makes this team better, Carlson is all for. That is why he doesn’t care about stats. It is why he accepts the challenge of guarding an opposing team’s best player.

“If I go out there and play defense as hard as I can, I feel my teammates will do the same,” said Carlson.

It is also why Saucier has so much confidence in his senior guard.

“It’s the leadership factor,” said Saucier. “I trust him to make the right decisions.”

Saucier said Carlson’s best game of the year came in that 33-point rout of Campbell in mid-February. He did not score a single point, but his defense and decision making really helped set a tone for the win.

For the year, Carlson is averaging 7.7 points, 3.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He is one of those players that does a little bit of everything.

And if Conant is goes on to win its 10th state title in program history, Carlson is going to be a big reason why.

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