West Hartford’s Hall and Conard are having their best seasons – with both are ranked in the area ‘Top 10’ for the first time in years.
By Ronni Newton
The Conard girls basketball team started the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead, but a Hall rally – where the Warriors scored 12 unanswered points – nearly erased that lead.
“It was a lot of heart,” Hall coach Brittany Hugins said about the comeback effort. “One possession at a time.”
Defensive lapses, and an inability to maintain the energy and intensity, made the difference down the stretch. “We didn’t all show up to play,” Hugins said.
When the final buzzer sounded, Conard was the winner over its crosstown rival, 56-50.
“Calm down, and don’t stop doing what got us there,” Conard coach Mike D’Angelo told his team during a time out in the fourth quarter when the game had turned into a nail-biter. “To dig in on the defensive end and get three stops in key moments, and to score – I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Both teams arrived at the game with 11 wins under their belt and already qualified for the Class LL state tournament – the first time in years that both West Hartford teams have been so strong.
Robinson Gymnasium at Hall was packed with fans from both sides of town. The game fell during midterm exam time, and both teams had played the afternoon before, but there was plenty of energy.
Tough defense by Conard – which held Hall’s top players Amber Raisner and Lexi Gellerman to a combined total of 10 points – was a key difference-maker. D’Angelo said the team plays “hard core man-to-man” for the entire game.
Hall’s Madison Mandyck tied the game at 41 by making two foul shots with 4:25 left in the game, quickly answered by Lena Proietti’s two free throws.
With 2:16 to go, Tatiana St. Juste capitalized on a Hall turnover, nailing a 3-pointer to put Conard up 48-44.
In the end it was the free throw shooting down the stretch that made the difference for the Chieftains. Conard was 22-for-26, making its last 10 shots, while Hall was 18-for-30.
“They stepped up tonight,” D’Angelo said. He said the team is in great shape. “Our practices are harder than the games.”
Conard junior Delaney Connors had a stand-out game with 22 points, and St. Juste had 18. Mandyck led Hall with 12 points and Caroline O’Keefe had 11.
Conard, which played six road games in a row and went 6-0, is 12-1, and Hall’s record falls to 11-3.
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