Azaiyah Felder’s 29 points pace the Chieftains.
By Paul Palmer
Seven games into the season Conard girls varsity basketball coach Laurie Cersosimo sees the good and the bad with her team and knows the areas they need to work on.
After Monday’s 66-40 win over Hartford Public at home in West Hartford, Cersosimo has an even better idea of the areas to focus on. “We did a lot of great things [tonight]. But we need to work on boxing out and our defense,” she said.
One thing that is almost automatic for the Chieftains is the scoring from senior Azaiyah Felder. The Ohio University commit had gone 35 straight games scoring in double figures, before Windsor held her to just six points last week.
Monday night, it was back to the old “Yaya” as she is known – dropping 29 points on the Owls from all over the court. Hartford, 1-5, played a scrappy first quarter, just made too many unforced errors leading to a Conard 7-point lead at the end of the first.
Felder scored Conard’s first 4 points, and Emilia Santiago’s tough defense led to turnovers as well as points for the junior. Conard held as much as an 8-point lead in the first, capped off by a Felder finger roll put-back at the buzzer for the 19-12 score.
The Owls started stronger in the second quarter with Mari Figueroa putting back the missed Hartford shot to make it a 19-15 deficit. But Felder helped get Conard moving when she picked up a loose ball, dribbled around her back to avoid a defender, and pushed the ball up court – finding Shea McCann with the bounce pass between defenders for the hoop. Sophia Lynch drained a 3-pointer and hit a lay-in and McCann got the steal and the hoop to push the score to 31-15.
Felder, who came into the game needing five 3-pointers to move into fourth place on the schools all-time list, led all scorers in the first half with 15 – but none of those were from 3-pointers.
The third quarter, more specifically the first few minutes of it, was where Conard put things away. Felder opened the scoring with a nice 1-on-1 baseline drive past T’shyra Morrison, and then tough defensive pressure by the Chieftains led to a pair of baskets by Lynch – who finished the game with 10 points.
Three minutes into the thrd, McCann’s hustle resulted in a steal for Conard which she converted into a lay-in at the other end – and the lead was 20. Conard held the 20-point bulge through the end of the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 20-9.
The combination of Conard’s pressing defense, liberal substitutions, and Hartford’s inability to put together any offensive run led to a sloppy fourth quarter.
While Conard’s Cersosimo felt that overall, the effort was good, but, “We are better in areas than I thought we would be at this point of the season, but we need to keep doing the little things right,” she said.
McCann finished with 10 points and Felder, who had 29 overall, only hit one 3-pointer, leaving her 4 shy of moving up on the school’s records list.
The Chieftains are back in action Wednesday night at Northwest Catholic. After that it will be a tough matchup with Simsbury and Conard will close out the regular season on the 11th when they host Hall.
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