Conard struggled early but in the end topped Hall 50-47 in a crosstown West Hartford game, earning the Chieftains a share of the CCC Central title.
By Ronni Newton
After the Conard boys defeated Hall in a hard-fought contest of West Hartford’s crosstown rivals, the Chieftain and Warrior girls faced off in the second varsity game of the day. With a ranking among the top 10 teams in the area and 16 wins already under their belt, the Conard girls were a statistical favorite heading into Saturday’s game with Hall, but nothing – other than a good game – is guaranteed when the two West Hartford schools meet in any sport.
It was senior night for the Conard girls, and Nicole Kradas came alive in the second half of her last regular-season home game, scoring 14 of her 18 points and turning around the game for the Chieftains.
In the first meeting between the schools on Jan. 22, Conard ran away with the game, winning 60-19. When the game was tied at 12 after the first quarter, Conard head coach Colleen Duggan told the team to “get your heads in the game.”
“This is the first game all year where we got nervous … We just couldn’t seem to get it together,” Duggan said.
Hall led 22-20 the half, and stayed ahead of Conard for the third quarter which ended with the Warriors up 37-31.
Conard finally gained the lead with just over a minute left in the game, after Delaney Connors, who ended the game with 13 points, made some clutch free throws. Connors made just one field goal, but was 11 for 13 at the foul line.
When Connors got a rebound and the team was up two, that was when Duggan knew her team was going to win, she said. Connors is the team’s overall leading scorer, but was struggling all day. “I was proud of her because she was able to regain her composure and make some big foul shots when they mattered,” said Duggan.
Hall’s Amber Raisner hit a three-pointer to pull the Warriors back within one with 42 seconds left in the game, but then she fouled Connors who hit both of her shots and Conard was back up by three.
Kradas caught a long inbound pass with just over a second left in the game, and drew the foul. The senior’s first free throw was good for the last points of the game, securing the Chieftains victory.
Lexi Gellerman was Hall’s high scorer with 16 points, followed by Marie Cotter with 12.
“The outcome is just a score. We’ve struggled all year long with personnel,” said Hall head coach Jeff Kaplowitz after the game.
The team’s intended starting forward tore her ACL before the season began and the lead scorer in the first four games sustained a season-ending injury, Kaplowitz said. The young team of freshman and sophomores really started to gel by the end of the season.
“Defensively they were as good as they get tonight. They’ve got the heart of a lion,” Kaplowitz said. “Everyone who was on the floor today was just stellar. The score at this point was really secondary.”
Duggan said Kradas was “unbelievable”on Saturday. “She could not have come up any bigger than tonight.”
“It’s Hall-Conard, those things happen in Hall-Conard games,” said Duggan. She said that Hall came out and had something to prove, and it looked at times when the wanted the win more than Conard did.
“I’m glad our kids finally woke up,” said Duggan.
The win gave Conard a share of the CCC Central’s Blue Division title, the first time in 30 years that the Chieftains have won a league championship.
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