The Chieftains took control early and kept the Warriors at bay to earn their eighth win and qualify for the postseason.
By Marlon Pitter. Photos by Ronni Newton
The Conard boys basketball team scored the first 15 points of the game and dominated throughout an emphatic 61-41 home win over crosstown rival Hall Thursday afternoon in West Hartford.
Connor Olechna scored a game-high 18 points, with half coming from beyond the arc. Peter Simplicio chipped in 15 and Gianmarco Nosigilia added 10 for the Chieftains. Makyle Ramos led the Warriors with 13 points.
“Records don’t matter. Previous game doesn’t matter,” said Conard head coach Jared Leghorn. “We need to come out right away and just execute, and we did almost as good as we could have done as far as that goes.”
Conard (8-3) jumped out to a 20-2 lead six minutes into the first quarter, using its size to control the paint at both ends of the floor. Struggling to get the ball inside, Hall (2-8) went on a 9-0 run with three 3-pointers in the final 1:23 of the quarter to draw the score to 20-11.
The Chieftains took a 30-14 lead halfway through the second quarter, but the Warriors cut the margin to 10 at the 1:12 mark. Arsen Shtefan hit a 3-pointer for Conard with a minute left, and the Chieftains blocked a Hall buzzer-beater to take a 33-20 halftime lead.
Conard extended the margin to 41-23 with 3:29 left in the third quarter. Ramos cut into the lead with two consecutive layups, but the Chieftains went on a 9-2 run in the last 2:08 of the quarter to take their largest lead of the game, 50-29, entering the fourth.
Olechna hit his third 3-pointer of the game to put Conard ahead 58-38 with 4:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, keeping the game out of reach for Hall.
Hall head coach Bryan Moretti said his team’s struggles shooting the ball combined with Conard’s physical presence spelled trouble for the Warriors.
“We can’t put the ball in the basket,” said Moretti. “We’re obviously pretty good if we can put the ball in the basket. First two possessions, we got great looks with two feet inside the paint. [In] varsity basketball, you have to make them. We didn’t make them, and [Conard] played lights out to start. They were awesome to start.”
Moretti lauded Ramos’ effort attacking the paint, scoring nine of his 13 points in the second half.
“The game’s all there,” said Moretti. “He’s just gotta get stronger, and when he does, he’s gonna be really good. He’s really good right now. This is his first [year] playing varsity basketball, so he’s handling it very well.”
With the victory, the Chieftains doubled their win total from last season and qualified for the state tournament. While making the postseason is a success, Leghorn said he’s looking for continual improvement as the season progresses, starting with a rematch against Northwest Catholic (8-1) at home on Monday. Hall, meanwhile, will prepare to host Glastonbury (7-3) Tuesday night.
“It was a tough year last year, and you’re allowed to feel good about that, but we want to do more than just make states,” said Leghorn. “We need to keep getting better every night. I don’t know the last time we were 8-3, and we need to do what those types of teams do: improve every day. We’re not just trying to get through the season. We need to be playing our best basketball [in] late February and March, so [we’ll] enjoy it tonight, and we just need to get better for Northwest on Monday.”
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!