Conard hosted Hall in the second meeting of the teams this season, and this time the Warriors defeated their crosstown West Hartford rival.
By Ronni Newton
Fans from both teams packed the Conard gymnasium for the second contest between the Chieftains and their crosstown rivals – which was also a contest for the league regular season championship – and this time it was the Hall girls who came out on top with the hard-fought 6-point victory.
Hall kept Conard at bay during a fourth-quarter rally, winning 49-43.
With the victory, Hall tied Glastonbury for a share of the CCC Central-Blue Division title, the first league title for the team in six years. Hall, 16-3, has beaten Glastonbury twice in head-to-head competition during the season, but share an identical 5-3 league record.
Hall junior Amber Raisner was the top scorer on the floor with 22 points. In the previous meeting between Conard and Hall, she had been held to 8 points, but said the whole the team has grown so much since then.
Hall was riding a four-game winning streak coming into Monday’s. “This game I know we were so much better,” Raisner said.
Raisner said that rather than being nervous about the second meeting with Conard, she and some of the other players came into the game confident, but also with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. “[Most of these players] have never beaten Conard before,” she said.
Conard has won the last five meetings between the two schools, and six of the last eight since losing 17 in a row between the years of 2004-13.
“We just played disciplined and stuck to the game plan,” Hall head coach Brittany Huggins said after the victory.
“It was knowing where the shooters are, keeping them in front, and finishing the play,” she said. There were a lot of lessons learned from the first meeting between the two teams but this time, Huggins said, “The kids did a great job executing.”
Raisner “just let the game come to her tonight,” Huggins said.
Lexi Gellerman added 8 points for the Warriors, and Maddie Mandyk and Jenna Zydanowicz each had 6 points. Caroline O’Keefe had 4 and Liv Deslauries added 3 points.
Conard had three players in double figures. Delaney Connors, who leads the Chieftain scoring with a 16.1 points per game average, contributed 13 points. Tatiana St. Juste had 12 and fellow senior co-captain Liz Ladd added 11. Maggie Venora’s 6 points and Gillian Haverty’s point on a fourth-quarter free throw rounded out the scoring for the Chieftains.
Huggins said this game had a lot of weight on it – not just because it was against Conard but because it was for the league title. “This felt sweeter, yes,” she said.
“They’re a great team, and we’re a great team. It’s not often that Hall and Conard are 16-3 together,” said Conard head coach Mike D’Angelo. The difference on Monday night, he said: “Our offense wasn’t as good as their defense.” The team got so many looks that were dead on, but the ball just didn’t go in, D’Angelo said.
“Basketball can break your heart. It’s a game of inches. One shot rims out and it changes the whole complexion of the game,” said D’Angelo. He didn’t think the team was nervous, but just said it was one of those nights.
“I give credit to Hall tonight. I think they outworked us,” D’Angelo said. “They took our transition away.”
Hall now leads the overall series between the teams 58-31. Monday’s game was the first time in 40 years that the contest between the teams was for a league championship. According to team records, on Feb. 14, 1977, Hall and Conard faced each other for the CCIL title, which was won by Hall with a 52-33 victory.
Both teams head into post-season play that begins later in the week.
Conard, 16-4, will host a game in the CCC tournament on Thursday, but the opponent won’t be confirmed until Wednesday, D’Angelo said. He said he thinks the team can compete, but they need to be consistent for the full 32 minutes.
Hall, now 16-3 with a game left to play against Avon on Tuesday night, will also be the home team for a CCC contest. Huggins said that she feels good heading into the competition, and so does the team.
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