For the second time in as many games, the Chieftains held their opponent under 40 points to advance in the CCC Tournament.
By Marlon Pitter
Behind stifling half-court and transition defense, the Conard girls basketball team shut down No. 2 seed Berlin 46-31 in the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Glastonbury High School.
Taking a double-digit lead early, the Chieftains made nearly every possession tough for the Redcoats, harping on their main focus for the postseason: playing “Conard defense.”
“When we play Conard defense – intensity, full man-to-man – nobody’s stopping us,” said Conard senior guard Ella DiPippo. “At Hall, we had some lapses and we just didn’t play our game, and obviously the scoreboard showed that. This game and against Windsor, we’ve really just emphasized at practice, ‘Defense, defense, defense.’ We need to help. We need to recover, and that’s what we did, and we ran away with it.”
Azaiyah Felder and DiPippo led Conard with 19 and 16 points respectively, while Lyzi Litwinko and Ashley Wenzel each scored 10 for Berlin.
The Chieftains took a 10-4 lead in the first quarter on two DiPippo 3-pointers and a pair of Felder layups. Trailing 16-6, Berlin made consecutive baskets late in the period, but Felder found Tatiana Harrison in the paint for a last-second layup to put Conard ahead 18-10.
Conard outscored Berlin 14-7 in the second quarter to take a 32-17 lead into halftime. Shea McCann made a long ball for the Chieftains to give them their largest lead of the half, 30-13, at the 2:15 mark.
It took nearly three minutes for either team to score in the third quarter, but Isabella Mocadlo found the basket at the 5:05 mark to end the scoring drought for the Chieftains. Felder, meanwhile, scored the rest of the team’s seven third-quarter points.
Berlin drew closer at the end of the frame, scoring four unanswered points to cut the margin to 39-27. The Chieftains only allowed four points in the fourth quarter, however, to stave off a final push from the Redcoats.
The Redcoats won the regular-season meeting between the teams 48-46 in Berlin on Dec. 30. Chieftains head coach Laurie Cersosimo said the team wanted to make a statement in the conference tournament rematch.
“If you think about that first game, we didn’t play Chieftain basketball,” said Cersosimo. “We didn’t play Chieftain basketball, and that’s one of the things we talked about in preparation for this game: ‘Things happen for a reason.’ I told you at Windsor that we wanted them and we hoped for that because that game, we didn’t get to kind of demonstrate our best basketball, and today we sure as heck demonstrated our best basketball.”
Conard will return to Glastonbury to face 14-seed and defending CCC Tournament champion E.O. Smith Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the semifinals. No. 4 East Catholic and No. 8 Bloomfield will meet in the early semifinal game at 5 p.m.
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