×

Conant all grown up in season opener

  • The Conant boys' basketball team opened the season by hosting Fall Mountain on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team opened the season by hosting Fall Mountain on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team opened the season by hosting Fall Mountain on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Peyton Springfield gets a layup against Fall Mountain. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Conant’s Ryan Smith defends Fall Mountain’s Jared Walker at the end of Thursday’s season opener. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Conant boys' basketball team opened the season by hosting Fall Mountain on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Conant boys' basketball team opened the season by hosting Fall Mountain on Friday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, December 11, 2017 5:23PM

Conant’s 68-58 over Fall Mountain was all salted away. The Orioles were up ten with seven seconds left when the Wildcats got the ball into the frontcourt looking to cut into the insurmountable deficit on the final possession.

Gavin Motuzas wasn’t having any of it. Motuzas came from behind, tipped the ball away and finished the game in true Conant fashion – with a steal.

“How many kids are really gonna do that nowadays?” said head coach Eric Saucier after the game. “He just keeps playing and doesn’t care.”

Motuzas was an offensive and defensive spark for the Orioles during Thursday’s season-opening win, hitting eight three-pointers for 24 points. The sophomore’s breakout game was “no surprise” for Saucier and the O’s.

“He allows the offense to come to him, he works his butt off defensively, and all he cares about is winning,” Saucier said. “And that’s what you need. That’s all that matters.”

Motuzas’s output was topped only by fellow sophomore Peyton Springfield, who scored 26 to lead the Orioles to victory. Springfield’s development over the past year is obvious, as he’s now the biggest player on the team as a 6’2” guard, and can score in any way imaginable. Sophomore Anthony Gauthier (four points) completes the youth movement in Conant’s starting lineup, with junior Jake Drew (six points) and senior Ryan Smith (eight points) as the upperclassmen. It’s still a young team, but after last year’s baptismal by fire, the Orioles are more experienced, more mature and look like a top-flight Division III team.

“I think playing the young guys last year was a huge benefit,” Saucier said. “They’re still young, they still make young mistakes, but they’re definitely a lot more mature on the floor.”

That maturity was tested on Thursday night in more ways than one. Conant worked their way to a 14-point lead over Fall Mountain before the Wildcats came surging back with some hot three-point shooting of their own. Jacob Bardis led Fall Mountain with 23 points as the visitors cut the lead to one in a 20-point third quarter. In the midst of that, things got a bit chippy, as Wildcats exchanged words with Drew and Smith, the referees stepping in to calm it down. But neither the Fall Mountain comeback nor the bad blood flapped the Orioles.

“Credit to [Fall Mountain], they made the shots, but we’ve got to make it a little harder for them to make shots,” Saucier said. “We’ve got to get a hand up, we’re being lazy defensively. I thought fourth quarter we did a little bit better job, but that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

In this year’s unpredictable DIII, Conant looks like as good a horse as any to stake your bet on. With an early schedule that includes a trip to Mascenic tonight and another to Campbell Friday, the O’s will find out fast where they are now. Thursday, they got a good glimpse of where they could be.

“I think we're going to be a better scoring team than we were last year, now we've got to commit to the defense,” Saucier said. “If we can put both of them together, I think we're going to be pretty good.”

Conant tips off at Mascenic tonight at 7 p.m., weather permitting.