Riley Fox, a junior at West Hartford’s Conard High School, broke a 23-year-old all-time school scoring record Thursday night.
By Paul Palmer
It was a night filled with expectations and anticipation, but in the end they may choose to burn most of the tapes of Thursday’s Conard boys basketball 61-42 win over Avon – except for one free throw in the fourth quarter. That was the moment that junior Riley Fox passed Jack Phelan as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,179 points.
“I wasn’t thinking about it, I just wanted us to get the win,” said the 6-foot-5 Fox.
The 9-3 Red Wolves came into the game against the 3-9 Falcons after having a weather-induced practice cancellation on Wednesday. Without making any excuses, both Fox and head coach Jared Leghorn said that played a role in the team’s horrid first half.
“Some of us tried to find a gym to do something yesterday, so I think that was part of it,” said Fox. “I think it was high school kids after a snow day, playing an away game and looking at the other team’s record,” Leghorn said.
Avon controlled much of the opening quarter and used Raveend Chandramohan to try and isolate Fox and limit his opportunities. Fox missed his first two shots and had five of his team’s seven points in the opening eight minutes. His younger brother, Aidan, had the other two.
Avon senior Issac Aguilar led all scorers in the game with 25 and was the best player on the court.
In the second quarter, Conard’s fortunes got no better, and the Falcons opened up leads of as much as six points before Fox score on a putback of his own shot and then hit the driving hoop and ensuing free throw to help the Red Wolves claw back into the game, down three at 25-22 after two.
“At halftime we just rededicated ourselves to stopping Aguillar. He is really good,” Leghorn said of his intermission message. Whatever the coach said, it was a revived Conard squad that came out in the third quarter.
With the score now 29-26, on Alex Momeka’s basket, Ryan Bushnell followed with a putback to make it a 1-point game. Following an Avon hoop, Declan McCann’s 3 was off the mark, but Fox was there to put it in and tie the game at 31 just 2:21 into it.
Jackson Morhardt (13 points) would give Conard its first lead just under two minutes later. Fox would hit one free throw and Jaydon Schuler drained a 3 to give the visitors the 37-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Needing five points over the closing 8:00 to break the school record, Fox said his focus was on winning the game though he said afterwards he was relieved to have it over.
Conard used some quality passing to help increase the lead. Momeka found McCann on a backdoor lay-in, Schuler hit another 3 with the helper from Fox, and then Fox found Momeka who passed it to a cutting Schuler and it was a more comfortable 44-35 lead.
As the clocked wound down and Conard looked to be in control, all eyes turned to Fox’s record chase. Leghorn said he had not been thinking about it until late in the game when his team was in a good place.
“I don’t think it was a distraction,” the coach said of the chase.”
Fox would sink a 3 and then with about two minutes to play, he was fouled while shooting a 3. The redhead calmly walked to the line and hit the first to move to within one point of the mark. He rolled in the second to tie Phelan and then cleanly dropped in the third to become the new record holder at 1,179.
Conard called a quick time out and an announcement was made in the Avon gym recognizing the record.
Fox would finish with 21 in the game – an off night for him – but says he has a new goal. “I’d like to get to 2,000 points before I graduate,” said the forward, who is already fielding offers from Division I teams. He is ranked ninth in Connecticut and rated as the 23rd best player in all of New England according to the New England Recruiting Report. He said he wants to see how far his team (No. 11 in CT, No. 3 in Class 2) can go this year.
That trip faces a huge challenge next week when they face East Catholic and then play a rematch with Northwest Catholic on back-to-back nights.
“I’m happy he did it,” Leghorn said of the scoring record. “But now it is the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state up next.”
The Top 5 All-Time Scoring Leaders in Conard History:
- Riley Fox (Class of 2024) – 1,179
- Jack Phelan (Class of 2000) – 1,178
- Aidan Maloney (Class of 2017) – 1,014
- Bob Nelson (Class of 1969) – 969
- Mike Calabrese (Class of 1987) – 787
Riley Fox Year By Year:
- Freshman year: 15.1 PPG and 7.0 RPG (227 points)
- Sophomore year: 24.3 PPG on 49.5% field goal shooting and 6.3 RPG (632 points)
- Junior year: 27.2 PPG on 50.0 % Field Goal shooting , 40.5 3PT %, 84.3 FT%, and 11.5 RPG (299 points, *Entering Thursday)
- Program record set for most points in a season (632 eclipsing Bob Nelson’s 461 in the 1968/69 season)
- Program record for most points per game in a season
- Program record for most points in a game (50 vs. Bulkeley)
- Program record for most points in a game against Hall (42)
- Program record for highest free throw percentage in a season
*Thanks to Mark Corey of Conard High School for the statistics.
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