West Hartford’s Conard High School hosted a first round CCC girls basketball tournament game Thursday night.
By Paul Palmer
Monday night the Conard girls basketball team saluted its seniors in the final game of the regular season. Thursday it was the sophomores being celebrated as Callie Cosgrove, Emily Knowles, and Courtney McPhee led the Red Wolves to a 72-45 win over South Windsor in an opening round game in the CCC tournament.
Knowles would finish with 25 points, Cosgrove 24, and McPhee 13. All three also chipped in with exceptional passing and were a key part of an aggressive Conard defense that forced the Bobcats into double-digit turnovers. The win was the first CCC tournament home win for Conard girls basketball since a quarterfinal win in 2015 over Rocky Hill. Knowles’ 25 points is the second highest point total scored in a CCC game by a Conard player. Tatiana St. Juste has the school record with 26 against Wethersfield on Feb. 13, 2017.
“We’re playing together and building momentum off each other,” said Knowles on how the team is finding success.
The game started out sloppy for both sides with miscues and fouls. The referees would call 33 fouls in the 32 minutes of game time. The host Red Wolves jumped out to a quick 4-2 lead, but then committed turnovers on their next three possessions and South Windsor took advantage, building a 9-5 lead.
Conard would fight back and take an 11-9 lead on Knowles’ off-balance lay-in, but the Bobcats’ Erin Martin answered with a corner 3 to put them back in the lead. Knowles would score the final two baskets of the opening quarter to make it 15-12 Conard after one.
“Everyone knows it’s lose and you’re out [in the tournament],” said head coach Laurie Cersosimo. “We shook off the nerves and found our rhythm,” she said of her team.
South Windsor opened the second quarter strong behind a pair of 3s from Anna Matus, part of her 12-point game. Once again it was Knowles with the answer as she hit a beautiful reverse lay-in, and then it was Cosgrove with the hoop off a steal – and three minutes in the Red Wolves held the 21-18 lead.
Conard would go on a 14-5 run to end the first half with Knowles scoring 16 and Cosgrove 10 before intermission. “The playoffs are always nerve wracking,” Cosgrove said. “We just had to get in the game.”
Having a group of sophomores that contribute night in and night out and working with a strong group of seniors has allowed the Red Wolves to post 17 wins so far this season. “It’s great to have kids at such a young age for four years,” said Cersosimo. “They really all work well with the team.”
While Cosgrove and Knowles are filling the basket, McPhee is supplying the assists and defense that are translating into points. “She (Cosgrove) has the hardest job. Everything goes through Courtney and she never complains,” the coach said of McPhee.
Early in the second half, Cosgrove and Knowles mixed 2-point and 3-point shots, and five minutes in to the third the lead was 49-35. McPhee added a 3, and Cosgrove would close it out with a lay-in on the break and a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 57-38 with eight minutes to play in the game.
Conard increased its lead in the fourth, going up by as many as 29 points before Cersosimo gave her starters a well-deserved rest, taking the last of them out with just under 2 minutes to play. The Red Wolves ran the last minute off the clock with their ball control and passing and were rewarded with the 72-45 win and a standing ovation from the home crowd.
“Every team in the CCC is really good, so it’s nice to be hosting the first game,” Cosgrove said after the win.
The Red Wolves will play again on Saturday at Plainville High School in the quarterfinals of the CCC tournament against the winner of the Rocky Hill/Simsbury matchup. A win in that game will bring them back to West Hartford for the semifinals at the University of Hartford.
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