Northwest Catholic defeats West Hartford rival Conard for the second time, improving to 10-3 on the season.
By Marlon Pitter
Recognizing Azaiyah Felder’s uncanny ability to attack the rim, Northwest Catholic emphasized defending Conard’s top scorer in a crucial matchup.
While Felder led all scorers with 23 points, Northwest Catholic head coach Jenniqua Bailey thought the Lions team did enough to slow her down in a 61-52 win over the Chieftains Wednesday night in West Hartford.
“I told them take pride in their defense,” said Bailey. “[It’s a] big assignment guarding Azaiyah. As you see, we face-guarded her a majority of the game, and we forced the rest of their team to try and win this game. … [In the] second half, we did much better keeping her under control, but hey, it was a long stretch and they pulled it out in the end.”
Brianna Lebrun led Northwest Catholic (10-3) with 18 points, while Erin Carucci and Morgan Murphy added 17 and 16 respectively. Ella DiPippo scored 15 for Conard (7-5).
Trailing 46-40 entering the fourth quarter, Felder chipped away at the Lions’ lead. Felder scored seven of the 12 points Conard had in the final frame, adding a layup to tie the game at 52 with 2:25 remaining.
Twenty seconds later, Murphy drained a 3-pointer at the other end to give Northwest Catholic a 55-52 lead. The Lions stymied the Chieftains’ offense in the last two minutes and went 6-for-6 from the free throw line to seal the victory.
“I saw nobody on me, so I just stroked it,” Murphy said of her de facto game-winning shot. “Shooters gotta shoot.”
Conard jumped out to a 13-6 lead with under two minutes left in the first quarter. The Chieftains led 15-6 after one period, with nine points from DiPippo.
Northwest Catholic went on a 10-0 run early in the second quarter to take an 18-15 lead. Down by five late in the quarter, Shea McCann hit a buzzer-beater for Conard to trim the deficit to 27-24 at halftime.
— Marlon Pitter (@marlonpresents) January 30, 2020
Both teams saw their highest scoring outputs in the third quarter, but the Lions outscored the Chieftains 19-16 to extend their slim lead. Lebrun dominated the paint, scoring seven of her 11 third-quarter points in a 90-second span to put Northwest Catholic ahead 45-38 at the 1:25 mark.
With the win, Northwest Catholic snaps Conard’s five-game win streak and sweeps the season series following its Dec. 23 comeback victory.
“It wasn’t a question of what they did. It’s what we didn’t do,” said Conard head coach Laurie Cersosimo. “We constantly stress really doing the little things: setting the right screens, making the right pass, running the right play, helping on defense. We always talk to them about [how] it always comes down to little things, and unfortunately it came down to that for us tonight. We play hard, and we always do. We’ve gotta continue to do that. We’ve a got a lot of season still left.”
Northwest Catholic will travel to Hartford to face Bulkeley/Weaver (7-6) Friday night, while Conard will play at New Britain (8-6).
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