Hall cruises into postseason play on a 12-game win streak after defeating crosstown rival Conard on Tuesday night.
By Marlon Pitter. Photos by Liz Proietti and Sue Gellerman
Behind double-digit scoring from its three seniors, the Hall High School girls’ basketball team defeated Conard 58-43 at home in West Hartford on Tuesday, completing a season sweep of its crosstown rival on Senior Night.
Maddy Mandyck, Amber Raisner, and Lexi Gellerman scored 17, 15, and 11 points, respectively, to lift the Warriors to victory in their final regular-season game.
“In my career, we’ve never beat Conard twice, so we’re in a good place right now to enter into the postseason,” said Mandyck. “We’re really happy about it.”
The hosts jumped out to a 9-2 advantage in the first quarter, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Delaney Connors and Lena Proietti – two of Conard’s senior captains – brought the game within one at 9-8 with 2:27 to play in the first quarter. Raisner nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to stretch Hall’s lead to 14-8, which seemed to be a catalyst for the team moving forward.
The Warriors managed to take over in the second quarter with stout team defense, only allowing Conard 11 second-quarter points. Hall led by as many as 14 late in the second quarter before Connors made a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining to cut the Warriors’ lead to 30-19 and reach the milestone 1,000-point mark in her career.
Hall dominated early in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run before Conard could answer with a bucket to bring the score to 38-21 with 3:23 left. Again, a 3-pointer with under three seconds remaining – this time by Azaiyah Felder, who led the Chieftains with 14 points – gave Conard a glimmer of hope heading into the fourth quarter down 40-30.
The Warriors ultimately pulled away down the stretch with their best offensive quarter of the night, scoring 18 points in the final frame. Raisner and Mandyck wore down the Conard defense and combined for 12 of Hall’s fourth-quarter points.
“[Mandyck] is seriously performing, and it can’t happen at a better time,” said Hall head coach Brittany Huggins. “She’s just feeling more confident, and I’m really happy to see her blossoming and flourishing.”
Hall made 74 percent of its free throws, sinking 14 of 19 attempts. Conard shot 67 percent from the charity stripe, converting on six of nine free throws.
The Warriors finish the 20-game regular season with a 17-3 record on a 12-game winning streak, while the Chieftains have lost seven of their last eight, falling to 11-9 with Tuesday’s loss.
Hall clinched berths in the Central Connecticut Conference (CCC) and CIAC Class LL tournaments prior to Tuesday’s contest and will host Middletown to begin CCC Tournament play on Thursday night. The Warriors also will host a first-round matchup in the CIAC tournament on Feb. 26.
“[Middletown] beat us last year in the semifinals. I hope our girls are ready to go,” Huggins said. “I think they’re motivated, and I think they will be ready, so I’m excited to see them.”
Conard awaits finding out its first-round opponent in the CIAC tournament, and is also slated to play on Feb. 26. The CIAC bracket will be announced on Feb. 21. Conard head coach Mike D’Angelo said the extended time between games will be useful in pinpointing areas of improvement for the postseason, especially on defense.
“We’re going to start over from scratch because we have to break everything down and figure it out,” D’Angelo said. “Our defense has fallen off the map. Before these last two weeks that have been so tough, we hadn’t given up 50 all year and now, all of a sudden, we’re giving up 50, 60, and it all starts on the defensive end.”
“That’s not the team that started this year, and that’s what’s disappointing the most,” he said.
D’Angelo, with seven seniors on his roster who were honored at home on Friday, reflected on their careers coming to an end with only the state tournament left to compete in.
“It’s bittersweet because … there’s no tomorrow now. Nothing’s promised,” said D’Angelo. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, I’ll work harder tomorrow’ because there might not be a tomorrow. That’s what makes basketball so great – the tournament. Anything can happen, anyone can beat anyone but also that it could be total heartbreak.”
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