The Chieftains failed to convert opportunities against the Blue Dragons as they pulled away in the second half Tuesday.
By Marlon Pitter
After a 23-point comeback at Hall Friday night, nothing seemed impossible for the Chieftains.
The Conard girls basketball team failed to replicate their resurgent effort, however, in a 54-44 loss to Middletown (8-5) Tuesday night in West Hartford.
Conard missed nine layups and struggled in the paint throughout the game, while Middletown converted on its scoring opportunities in the second half to pull away.
“I give all the credit to Middletown. They came in here and outworked us in every phase of the game,” said Conard head coach Mike D’Angelo. “We got outworked for 32 minutes straight.”
The Blue Dragons led 16-14 coming out of halftime. The first half was a game of missed opportunities for teams, but Middletown eventually got its offense going.
Middletown went on an 11-3 run in the first half of the third quarter. Conard chipped away with two consecutive scores, but the Blue Dragons pushed the margin to 33-21 by the 1:12 mark.
— Marlon Pitter (@marlonpresents) January 23, 2019
Entering the fourth quarter down 33-23, Isabella Mocadlo made two free throws to draw Conard within eight points with 7:50 remaining.
From there, a 9-0 Middletown run made it a 42-25 game with 6:24 to play.
Azaiyah Felder turned a steal into a fast break layup to cap off a 5-0 run with 3:03 remaining, but Middletown continued to get the line in the bonus and sink free throws to put the game away.
Conard spent most of the fourth quarter in the bonus but went cold from the free throw line, shooting 9-for-16 (56 percent) down the stretch.
The Chieftains went on an 8-2 in over the first five minutes of play, but the Blue Dragons scored the next two baskets to close the quarter at 8-6.
Middletown went on a 7-0 run to open the second quarter. Conard did not score until the 2:25 mark, when Morgan Dorsey added a layup to slim the deficit to 13-10.
Jessica McNally made a pair of free throws with 1:45 on the clock to bring the score to 13-12, tied for the smallest deficit the Chieftains faced in the game.
Dominique Highsworth scored a game-high 19 points for Middletown, shooting 9-of-12 on free throws.
Felder led Conard with 12 points. Mocadlo chipped in nine, while McNally and Meghann Morhardt added eight each.
The loss brings the Chieftains to 8-5 and snaps a four-game winning streak. With a relatively young and undersized team relying on speed and athleticism, however, D’Angelo said he’s content with the team’s results so far.
“I’m very proud of where we are,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of good teams and hung with them. I would love to get the Southington game back where we lost by one or two, and the Glastonbury game where we lost by two.”
“When you think about it, we lost the first couple games by four points total,” he added. “We could be [10-3] right now. To be 8-5, I’m very happy where we are.”
Conard will travel to Enfield (2-10) to face the Eagles Friday night at 6:45 p.m.
Looking to qualify for the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament and improve state playoff seeding, D’Angelo said how the team finishes the regular season can vary drastically.
“We could win out. We could lose out. We could split. There’s just so many variables with this group,” he said. “We have not yet put 32 minutes together. We sure as hell put 16 minutes together the other night, but we have yet to put 32 minutes together. … That’s a concern going forward.”
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