Conard faced Bloomfield Monday night at the University of Hartford in West Hartford in the semifinals of the CCC tournament.
By Paul Palmer
Knocking off one Goliath in the CCC Boys Basketball Tournament was tough enough for Conard, but the Red Wolves did win in a buzzer beater against Northwest Catholic in the opening round. Monday night, a repeat performance was not in the cards as defending state Division IV champs Bloomfield dominated Conard 63-46 in the semifinals.
The Red Wolves’ fate was sealed early when they went 0-7 from the field to open the game, until Riley Fox finally hit a jumper with more than 3 minutes played. Things didn’t get much better as Conard just could not get its shots to fall, while Bloomfield was shaking off a slow start to take the 12-4 lead after the opening quarter.
“They are really good,” said Conard coach Jared Leghorn of his opponent. “If we made a couple more shots in the first half, it could have been closer.”
The Warhawks continued to pour it on as the second quarter started. At times Conard looked overmatched as Bloomfield ran a dominating pick game on offense and owned the boards at both ends of the court. Conard didn’t help its own cause with several unforced turnovers, including back-to-back possessions midway into the second. When Howard Simpson (20 points) followed his own shot for the put back, Bloomfield had a 20-8 lead. The play encapsulated how things were going for each team in the opening 16 minutes of play.
Even the usually reliable Riley Fox was called for traveling, negated a breakaway two-handed dunk that excited the Conard fans. Simpson put the exclamation point on the first half when he found space along the baseline to take the pass and jam it home at the buzzer for a 22-8 halftime score. At the intermission, Conard had just four players with any points – all had just two.
Bloomfield continued to show why it is one of the state’s best squads when early in the third, they grabbed three consecutive scoring attempts, kicked the ball out to the top of the key ,and Cayden Smith dropped the 3 to make it 27-8 just 1:15 in. Conard did make a run with a Ryan Bushnell put-back of a Jackson Morhardt miss.
On the next possession, the Red Wolves showed they were not giving up. Morhardt went hard to the floor to keep the ball in play, Alex Moemeka (15 points) grabbed the ball, drove hard to the hoop, took the contact as he scored and then completed the 3-point play with the free throw.
Fox would start to warm up in the third, hitting a pair of 3s, but Bloomfield’s Davien Kerr (20 points) was a one-man wrecking crew hitting four straight baskets for the Warhawks. After three, Bloomfield was up 46-23.
In the fourth, Fox (23 points) finally got his dunk on a headman pass from Moemeka. Bushnell and Moemeka would also hit for Conard as they attempted a rally, but Bloomfield was too fast and too talented and earned its 20th win on the season against just two losses.
“We’re going to take a few days off like we did last year,” said Leghorn after the game. “Single elimination tournaments are draining.”
Conard opens play later this week in the CIAC State Tournament at Farmington. It will be the third time the two sides have met this season, with each claiming one win so far.
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