Basketball: ConVal bounces back from COVID scare; Conant reacts to tough playoff draw

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal senior captains Emily Donovan, left, and Julia Donovan surround Hollis-Brookline’s Brook Allanach during the girls' basketball game on Saturday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal girls' basketball team hosted Hollis-Brookline on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/21/2021 9:43:51 AM

The ConVal girls’ basketball team celebrated their twin seniors Saturday with the Cougars’ first home game in front of fans, the culmination of a shortened season that almost wasn’t.

“I’m happy [fans] got to come in,” said senior Julia Donovan after ConVal’s 63-43 loss to Hollis-Brookline Saturday. “I was thinking we were going to have a senior night with no one here and that would have been really weird.”

Donovan faced a unique challenge this winter after testing positive for COVID-19 shortly before ConVal’s regular season was set to begin in January. Donovan and her teammates had just played at an open gym session at the Antrim town gym when she got the news.

“It was a gut punch,” said ConVal head coach Kevin Proctor, “because we were so excited that we finally got the school board approval [for the season].” The Cougars shut everything down, called off practices and isolated their players; miraculously, not a single other ConVal player – not even Julia’s twin sister, Emily – contracted the virus. Proctor said the girls had been following COVID protocols even at their open gym session, wearing masks and sanitizing the basketballs between reps.

“I think what it shows is that we can do this safely, right?” Proctor said. “Every player that got tested was tested negative.”

Donovan said she was asymptomatic and felt few ill effects beyond some shortness of breath; once she was no longer contagious and the Cougars returned to the court, conditioning while wearing a mask was a challenge, but it was one the team faced together.

“My team was understanding of it,” Donovan said. “Some drills I’d have to sit out of if I needed to, but within a week I was back to normal.”

Donovan showed no ill effects on Saturday as she and her sister, ConVal’s co-captains, battled the Cavaliers. As always, the feisty blond twins gave their all playing defense, taking charges, getting on the floor and showing the leadership they learned back in their sophomore year under the tutelage of then-captains Lindsey Carey, Rachyl Parslow and Kalli Taylor.

“When you have seniors like that who are willing to just sacrifice everything for you and their teammates, that’s just inspiring,” Proctor said. “That’s awesome. That’s what it’s all about. They would do anything I told them to do. If I say ‘go run through the wall,’ they would do it, you know? As a coach, it’s a great feeling to know that you have that sort of leadership in your pocket. I’m going to miss them. They’re awesome kids and they’ve gone through a lot this year.”

With the limited family members in attendance cheering her on, Emily Donovan had her best game of the year, scoring a team-high 17 points with four three-pointers.

“I think I was feeling inspired because this is our first and last home game with fans,” Emily said. “I don’t think we’re going to get any in for playoffs. So I felt like I needed to do good for the last time with the fans here at least, especially for my parents.”

ConVal is still winless on the shortened season with just one game at Milford to play next week, but things were starting to click during Saturday’s game. The Cougars are better from beyond the arc than at the rim, which allows opponents to push their defenses out to the three-point line; as Saturday’s game progressed, ConVal started screening, forcing the Cavaliers to switch, and working the ball in to center Mairin Burgess and forward Maddy Faber in the paint.

“We’re always going to be able to shoot threes and we’re only gonna get better at that as we go,” Proctor said. “We can shoot, but we’re limited if we don’t get it into the paint and get Mairin and Jada (Stevens) and Maddy going.”

Faber had nine points Saturday, as did Makenna Proctor.

ConVal (0-4) is at Milford Tuesday and then – thanks to the NHIAA’s open-tournament, random draw format – hosts Lebanon for a Division II playoff game on March 5. The Cougars are happy to extend their season at least one more game.

“I didn’t want this to be the last home game,” Emily Donovan said. “It would have been so much more sad. I’m really happy that we get another game and I’m glad that we get to host Lebanon because we always love playing Lebanon.”

Conant girls’ unlucky playoff draw

The NHIAA selected their basketball tournament seedings much like it did for the fall sports season – grouping teams into four geographic regions within their divisions and then randomly drawing the seeds, rather than using regular-season records and strength of schedule. For the 10-0 Conant girls – the defending champions who haven’t lost a game since March of 2019 – that means the fifth seed out of five in Division III’s Region Three.

Instead of the traditional first-round bye followed by a home game in the friendly confines of the Pratt, Conant must now travel to Hopkinton on March 2 for a play-in game. The Hawks are 4-6 on the year playing against mostly Division II teams.

As the lowest seed, Conant can’t possibly have a home playoff game this winter, regardless of how the rest of the regional bracket plays out. It’s both a hurdle and a disappointment for the Orioles, who now face a tougher journey as they seek out a second straight Division III championship – a journey that likely won’t include any of their family in attendance until the tournament reaches the neutral site phase. But when you’re sitting on top, a little motivation doesn’t hurt.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say me and the girls are a little frustrated,” Conant head coach Brian Troy said after the NHIAA’s announcement Friday, “but at the same time, we understand the situation and we are going to use this as fuel. We’re more hungry now than we were two days ago.”

It’s an unlucky draw for Conant, but Troy and his team are taking it as another reminder of how lucky they are to be in the position they’re in. The Orioles narrowly avoided the COVID shutdown last March, winning their championship in traditional fashion without any cancellations; now, they’re at the tail end of another undefeated season without any outbreaks or truncation to speak of.

“This whole season has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions,” Troy said, “and we’ve been lucky to have a full schedule. A lot of teams haven’t even had a full schedule. We’re grateful that we’re still playing and we’re not going to take any game or practice for granted for the rest of this season.”

The Hopkinton/Conant winner travels to No. 1 seed Monadnock.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 Mascenic (0-6) and No. 2 Hillsboro-Deering (0-6) face each other in Hillsborough on March 4. 

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

The defending Division II co-champions ConVal  drew the No. 5 seed and will travel to No. 4 John Stark for a play-in game on March 1. Much like the Cougars, the Generals had a limited preseason and minimal practice periods and are still finding their identity even this late in the season. The Cougars lost both games against Hollis-Brookline last week and are currently 3-4 on the season. ConVal hosts Milford Tuesday for senior night.

Conant (8-2) is the No. 5 seed in Division III, Region Three, and will travel to No. 4 Monadnock on March 1 for a matchup far better than one could normally expect for a play-in game. The Orioles and Huskies split in the regular season with each team winning on its home court and are currently scheduled to play each other twice more to finish the regular season, once in Swanzey Tuesday and again in Jaffrey Friday.

The Orioles won their eighth game of the year on Wednesday, beating Hinsdale 54-41. Manny Hodgson led the Orioles with 12 points; Hayden Ketola and Malique Motuzas had nine each and Garrett Somero had eight.

Mascenic drew the No. 3 seed and plays at No. 2 Hillsborough-Deering on March 3. The Vikings are fresh off a pair off losses to that tough Monadnock team. On Wednesday, Mascenic lost in Swanzey, 49-40. The Vikings were severely shorthanded in that game, carrying only seven players due to COVID precautions. Senior Shea Zina led with 13 points and Gabe Turner and Dylan Barthel had eight each. 

The Vikings fell again at home to Monadnock Saturday, as Jake Kidney’s 20-point game led the Huskies to a 56-46 win. Shea Zina had another team-high 13. 

In Division IV’s Region Two, No. 6 Wilton-Lyndeborough will take the trip over to No. 3 Mount Royal on March 1 for a preliminary game, the winner of which faces No. 2 Sunapee. Hinsdale drew the No. 1 seed in that bracket. WLC has a pair of games from Hinsdale this upcoming week where they’ll be looking for their first win of the season. 




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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