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Hall Closes the Door on Conard with Strong Second Half

Hall senior Matt Walker (No. 4), the Warriors high scorer Thursday, is double teamed by Conard's Evan Smart (left) and Ryan Bushnell. Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer (we-ha.com file photo)

High school basketball has returned to Connecticut, and West Hartford’s Conard High School started the season by hosting crosstown rival Hall on Thursday night.

Conard senior Josiah Rivers looks for the open shot. He was high scorer for the Chieftains. Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

By Paul Palmer

The first half of Thursday’s Hall vs. Conard boys varsity basketball game showed just how much of a toll the COVID-19-forced layoff has had for both teams. The second half showed what a little time playing together can do.

The Warriors – playing their second game of the season – took control of things in the fourth quarter to move to 2-0 on the season with the 55-48 win.

Both coaches lamented the rust of not having been able to play games.

“We missed a lot of easy shots in the first half,” said Hall coach Bryan Moretti. His team was coming off a hard fought one-point win over Hartford Public the night before. For Conard, it had been nearly a full calendar year since their last game.

“We needed to play a game to see what we have,” said Conard coach Jared Leghorn. “It’s been 339 days since we played a game.”

A first half that was at times sloppy with unforced turnovers and missed shots ended with Conard holding a 21-19 lead. The second half was a different story as both teams seemed to find their rhythm at times and match each other basket-for-basket. Both teams relied heavily on three-pointers as they found their scoring touch.

In the third quarter, Hall senior co-captain Matt Walker took control of the game and would finish with a game high 19 points, including four free throws in the final minute to seal the deal.

“He makes us go,” said Moretti of Walker. “His competitiveness is infectious.”

Freshman Cooper Griffin – who was Hall’s leading scorer Wednesday against Hartford Public – finished the night with 13 points, including 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the three-point line.

For Conard, which honored its seniors before the game, the long layoff was just too much to overcome. The Chieftains battled hard all night and gave as good as they got, but in the end the lack of games played together spelled defeat. “In the third quarter that doubled the number of shots we took, said Leghorn.

Senior Josiah Rivers and his 16-point effort led Conard with freshman Riley Fox adding 11 in the losing effort.

The two West Hartford teams will meet again on March 11, this time at Hall High School.

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Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Hall vs. Conard boys basketball. Feb. 11, 2021. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Justin Rivas with his parents and brother. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Evan Smart and his parents. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Josiah Rivers with his mother and brother (a former Conard player). Photo credit: Paul Palmer

Connor Olechna with his parents. Photo credit: Paul Palmer

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