×

Basketball: Conant heads back to championship game after Wednesday’s Final Four win

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team played St. Thomas Aquinas in the NHIAA Division III semifinals at SNHU on Wednesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, March 06, 2019 9:29PM

Conant will play for a record 12th basketball championship on Saturday after beating St. Thomas Aquinas 57-39 in the NHIAA Division III semifinals Wednesday night at SNHU.

The No. 2 Orioles and No. 3 Saints played a tight first half as St. Thomas’ zone was relatively effective early on.

“I think there was a little pressure to start the game,” said Orioles senior guard Jake Drew. “We came out a little bit nervous, but I think with Peyton [Springfield] scoring… that really settled us down. We’ve played in big games before, nothing this big, but we’ve all been in big games, and I think we did fine. “

Springfield was a man possessed in the first quarter, scoring nine of Conant’s 16 points as the Orioles jumped out to a 16-9 lead.

Conant’s approach defensively was to wear out the St. Thomas scoring duo of guard Shawn DeKorne and forward Andrew Cavanaugh.

“They’ve got two guys that can really score but they’re not going to do it all game if we run the full-court,” Drew said. “They’ll get tired in the third and fourth quarter.”

DeKorne and Cavanaugh combined for 11 points in the first half as the Saints made a run and cut the Conant lead to 24-19 at the break.

Conant began to reap the rewards of their patience and defensive intensity in the second half, as the Saints began to tire.

That’s when Jake Drew and Anthony Gauthier took over for Conant. Drew, who’d only shot once in the first half, pulled up for three straight three-pointers to end the third quarter on a 9-0 run and improve the Oriole lead to 14.

In the fourth, it was Gauthier’s turn.

“He came up to me at one point during a free throw and said just give me the ball,” Drew said, “so I gave him the ball and he took it right to the basket and finished … that was huge for us.”

Gauthier scored seven straight in the fourth, aggressively attacking the hoop, and finished with a game-high 17 points as Conant pulled away and iced it at the line, where they’d go 13-19 for the game.

Springfield finished with 16 and Drew scored 11 for Conant; Cavanaugh had 14 for St. Thomas and DeKorne eight.

Conant (17-3) will play No. 1 Somersworth for the title at SNHU Saturday at 7:30 p.m. after the Hilltoppers beat No. 4 Campbell 61-39 in the late game.

 Conant lost to defending champion Somersworth 53-41 at the end of January.

“I’m really confident,” Drew said. “We lost to Somersworth, but none of us really played that well, and I’d love to get back and get revenge on them for losing.”