With a victory over crosstown rival Hall, the Chieftains have won their last five games after a 2-4 start.
By Marlon Pitter. Photos by Hunter Marotto
While both squads struggled offensively in the first half, the Conard girls basketball team pulled away from crosstown rival Hall to earn a 45-29 home victory Friday night in West Hartford.
Azaiyah Felder scored a game-high 20 points for Conard (7-4). Ella DiPippo sparked the Chieftains’ offense, scoring 10 of her 13 points in the second half.
“Hall is a good team, and when it comes to the Hall-Conard game, no matter who’s out … it’s always a good game between us,” said Conard head coach Laurie Cersosimo. “I’ll give it to them. They played really well, and we just told our kids, ‘You guys gotta keep your pressure D. You gotta play our game. Do not let the atmosphere or the rivalry get in the way,’ and they did. We struggled a little bit, but they did.”
Each team had difficulties scoring in the first quarter, amassing 14 points combined. Hall (5-8) led 7-4 late in the period, but DiPippo made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 7-7 with 26 seconds left.
While many of Felder’s shots didn’t fall early, she managed to score seven of Conard’s 10 second-quarter points to give the Chieftains a 17-14 lead at halftime.
The Chieftains outscored the Warriors 16-6 in the third quarter to take a 33-20 lead into the fourth. DiPippo went on a 6-0 run of her own with two layups and two free throws in a two-minute span. She sank another basket at the 1:28 mark to get into double figures.
Conard opened the fourth quarter with consecutive 3-pointers from Felder and Shea McCann to take a 39-20 lead with seven minutes remaining. Olivia Deslauriers scored six of her team-high 12 points for Hall in the final frame to draw the score to 43-29 at the 1:14 mark, but Felder added a layup to get to the 20-point plateau with 58 seconds left.
“It’s a really big game for us,” DiPippo said of the Hall-Conard rivalry. “We haven’t won on this court since I’ve been here, so this is my first win here on this court, which means a lot for the seniors and for the coach, for the whole program. I think we really just came together tonight and finished.”
Missing key players Olivia Bonee and Jordan Farrell to injuries, the Warriors suffered on the glass, a theme in recent matchups.
“Bonee is a double-digit rebounder,” said Hall head coach Brittany Huggins. “She’s a double-double, so we are definitely missing the rebounds from her and just the leadership too. A lot of the young kids have to step up into roles that they probably never imagined as freshmen.”
Hall will prepare for a road matchup with Southington (12-1) Tuesday night. The Warriors handed the Blue Knights their only loss on Dec. 23, and they look to regroup and end a five-game losing streak while shorthanded.
“One, Southington pressures a lot, so we’ve gotta be able to withstand and handle the pressure,” Huggins said. “I’m sure they’re gonna be gunning for us because their only loss is against us, and we’ve gotta rebound. Starting tomorrow, we’ve gotta emphasize it even more.”
Conard travels to Northwest Catholic (8-3) Wednesday night looking to avenge a two-point home loss on Dec. 23. With a five-game win streak to their credit, Cersosimo said the Chieftains are ready for any team on their schedule.
“As long as we play together, not many people are gonna be able to stop us,” she said.
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!