Schools Sports

Conard Girls Bounced from CCC Tourney by Windsor

Emily Knowles hits Conard's opening basket in the game. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

West Hartford’s Conard High School girls basketball team fell in the semifinals of the CCC Tournament on Tuesday night.

Sports reporting is sponsored by Keating Agency

Callie Cosgrove works around the pick of teammate Kathryn Torla. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

A game-high 20 points from Emily Knowles was not enough, as No. 1 seed Conard fell to No. 12 seed Windsor 49-39 in the CCC girls basketball tournament semifinals.

Things got off to a rocky start for both teams when the scoreboard at UHart’s Chase Family Center was not operating in time for the opening tip. Following a 20-minute delay, things were fixed and fittingly the opening tip ended up going straight out of bounds.

Both teams came out cold, perhaps because of nerves, perhaps because of the delay, or maybe it was just that kind of game. Knowles – who would set the Conard single season scoring mark of 558 points, scored three points early on. Then neither team could find the basket, with Windsor remaining scoreless until Ayanna Franks hit a 3 to tie it up at 4:26 into the first. The sloppy start saw Conard continually trying to dribble into the lane only to see the ball stolen, or the shot blocked. Windsor was putting up wild shots, and at the end of it the score was Knowles 7, Windsor 7.

Emily Knowles scored all 7 of Conard’s first quarter points. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

“I thought we got off to a great start, but our shots just did not fall,” said head coach Laurie Cersosimo of the Red Wolves. “Sometimes that’s what happens in basketball.”

The second period started on an ominous note for Conard when Franks tried to go baseline against Conard’s Nicole Gorman. Gorman went flying, came up with a bloody nose, and was called for the foul. It was one of several puzzling calls and non-calls that had both coaches up on their feet for much of the game. At times, the whistle would blow and the officials would all look at each other, and then make a call.

For much of the second, Conard was shooting itself in the foot instead of shooting baskets. On a stretch of 10 consecutive possessions, the Red Wolves had back-to-back traveling calls and a turnover followed by a shot that was blocked, before Knowles and Callie Cosgrove bracketed a Windsor basket. After that it was a block, a missed layup, and a missed shot, before Gorman returned with a packed nose with 2:02 to play.

Even after all that, the Warriors had just a 2-point lead at 13-11. Cosgrove hit a runner to tie it with 90 seconds to go, but Conard was called for a travel on its next trip down the court. Franks (15 points) hit another 3 before Knowles and Gorman each hit for Conard making it 17-16 Red Wolves at the break.

Callie Cosgrove hits the one-handed runner in the lane. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

“Windsor is a great team that outworked us in certain situations we had talked about before the game,” Cersosimo said. Conard opened the second with promise, when Courtney McPhee stole the ball on defense and fed Cosgrove who delivered a spot-on bounce pass to Knowles for the hoop. Cosgrove and Knowles connected again on the next possession and Conard had some momentum and now had the lead again at 21-18. It grew to five points when Cosgrove looked off a 3 and turned it into a midrange jumper before Windsor’s Kamaira Bowens scored with 2:00 to make it 23-20 Conard.

Courtney McPhee of Conard reacts as she’s called for the fouled on Windsor’s Ayanna Franks. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Cosgrove hit twice more to make it a six-point lead before Franks went baseline again for Windsor. Then it was Knowles hitting the layin for her 17th point of the game – breaking the Conard single season scoring mark held by Azaiyah Felder (Class of 2021). That would be the high point for Conard for the game as Windsor’s Mikaela Williams scored off her own missed shot, then stole the ball, and took it in for the basket. Bowens then drilled a 3 after a pair of misses by Knowles at the other end. Cosgrove managed to hit one more and it was 32-31 Conard after three.

The next 8:00 minutes would determine if Conard would get the return trip to the CCC final, or if the wondrous run of the 12th-seeded Warriors would continue. In the opening :53, Franks would score, Conard turned it over on their first possession, and when Bowens scored again it was 36-32 Windsor.

Callie Cosgrove had 14 points Tuesday night. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

With her team down by 6 moments later, Cersosimo called a timeout to regroup and settle down her squad. They came out of it and promptly turned the ball over. Cosgrove, who finished the game with 14 points, hit another one-handed runner in the paint to cut it to a four-point deficit, before Windsor scored again followed by another Conard turnover at 4:44.

Windsor them took control for good when Franks scored on a putback, Conard had their next shot blocked, Williams hit, and Conard was called for a shot clock violation down 10 with 3:04 to play.

Emily Knowles of Conard and Tyler Welsh of Windsor battle for position. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

As the clock wound down, Conard lacked a sense of urgency on the court, taking their time bringing the ball up and then trying to set up shots. Conard’s scoring ended when senior Kathryn Torla – who played one of her best overall games of the season – scored on a putback to make it 49-39 with just :12 to play.

“We lacked some aggression in the second half,” said Cersosimo. “I would have liked to see us play of a transition game.”

The loss puts Conard at 19-4 on the season and it is expected they will host a Class LL State Tournament game Monday. If they want to go anywhere in the tourney, they will have to put Tuesday night’s game behind them and clean up their mistakes.

“We respond back, that’s what we do. It is a great learning experience tonight,” Cersosimo said after the game.

Conard’s Callie Cogrove, Emily Knowles, and Courtney McPhee (l to r) were named to the All CCC Team. The announcement was made during the CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

 Game notes:

  • The loss moves Conard to 10-8 all-time in the CCC Tournament.
  • Windsor is coached by former Hall head coach Brittany Huggins (2016-22).
  • Knowles is now 22 points behind former Hall star Amber Raisner (Class of 2021) for third place on the all-time scoring list for West Hartford Public Schools.
  • Knowles, Cosgrove, and McPhee were named to their second consecutive All-Conference Team together.
  • The trio is also 1-2-3 on Conard’s all-time scoring list in the CCC Tournament.
  • Knowles now has scored 164 points in nine games in her career in the CCC Tourney.
  • Cosgrove has scored 147 points in nine career CCC Tourney Games.
  • Northwest Catholic won the night’s other semifinal knocking off defending Tourney champions Simsbury.

Conard players gather before the start of the game. Conard vs. Windsor. CCC Tournament semifinal. Feb. 20, 2024. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Editor’s note: This article was updated to indicate that Emily Knowles was the high-scorer with 20 points.

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