Hall hosted West Hartford rival Conard Tuesday night in their second meeting of the season for the boys basketball teams.
By Ronni Newton
The Hall gym was filled with fans and student sections were energized Tuesday night, but the home court advantage wasn’t enough to propel the Hall Titans to victory over their crosstown West Hartford rival. Behind 22 points from Riley Fox and 18 from Alex Moemeka, the Conard Red Wolves took control and completed a sweep of this season’s series with a 66-51 win Tuesday night.
Conard head coach Jared Leghorn said now that the team is finally healthy, has had some great practices, and lots of heart-to-heart meetings, they seem to have their game back. “The second half against Farmington last Friday, I felt like it was the first time we played Conard basketball all year.”
There were high expectations for the Red Wolves this season, after making it to the semifinals of the Division II tournament in 2022, where they lost to Northwest Catholic. After a strong start to the season, they dropped five straight, but finished the season 12-8.
“I’m proud of the seniors for staying locked in and believing. Hopefully we’re playing our best now that the tournaments are starting,” Leghorn said.
“We missed a zillion easy shots in that first half,” Hall head coach Bryan Moretti said. He said the team played pretty good defense, and the score was 16-11 after the first quarter.
Conard led 26-17 at the half, and Moretti said it was hard to bounce back, even though he had a good meeting with the team and they came back energized after the halftime break.
“Sometimes you just don’t put the ball in the basket. We just didn’t put the ball in the basket,” Moretti said.
He doesn’t blame it on nerves, or the intensity of playing their crosstown rival. Spencer Berson (21) led the scoring for the Titans with 12, and Amecca Freeman had 11.
The game was tied at 7, and then tied at 11, but Conard built a steady lead and was up 49-28 after the third frame.
Jaydon Schuler really stood out for Conard Tuesday night, Leghorn said, and was the team’s best rebounder. He was tasked with guarding Hall’s Justin Hill – holding him to just two points. Moemeka had one of his best games of the year as well, Leghorn said.
Conard, 12-8, will play Thursday night in the first round of the CCC tournament, followed by the CIAC Division II tournament. Although they are a Division II team, much of their competition this season has been against Division I teams, and he said it’s the second-hardest schedule in the state behind Northwest Catholic.
“We’ve got to keep it rolling,” Leghorn said.
“Tonight showed me that we need to be able to handle pressure a little bit better,” Leghorn said. “I think our defense has been pretty much rock solid the last couple of games, so that’s where we hang our hat on, with Bush [Ryan Bushnell] in the middle.”
“The state tournament for DII, there’s not a team that we can’t play with that we’re going to see regardless of the rounds,” Leghorn said.
Hall, which is in Division III, ends the season 13-7. “We should have a home CCC game Thursday, which we have never had in the history of the school,” Moretti said. A home game for the state tournament is possible, too, but with 22 teams in the division they may end up with a bye and then have to travel for their first round.
The game plan is just to keep on practicing, Moretti said. “We had great practice Friday, we had great practice Monday. We were ready to go, we just didn’t make any shots. … They executed, they did what I wanted them to do offensively, we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”
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