The Conard girls basketball team fell to Glastonbury Tuesday night at home in West Hartford.
Sports reporting is sponsored by Keating Agency
By Paul Palmer
The early part of the season went about as well as it could for the Conard girls basketball team.
After a loss in the second game of the season, the Red Wolves ran off a 12-game win streak. They have now lost two of their last three, at possibly the worst time of the season. Tuesday night, it was the Glastonbury Gladiators coming away with the 58-54 wins.
“Just too many mistakes and mental errors,” said head coach Laurie Cersosimo.
For most of the season Conard has run like a well-oiled machine, dispatching opponents at home and on the road and seeing two juniors both crack the 1,000-point career mark. Now, the well-oiled machine needs a tune-up, and Cersosimo says it is up to the players to make it happen. “There is stuff they have to do on their own on the court,” she said, adding that the coaching staff believes in the team and the players.
Things started well for Conard against 12-3 Glastonbury, which is ranked No. 8 in Class LL and came in on a 6-1 run. The Red Wolves got on the board quickly with Emily Knowles hitting on a driving layup, and then Callie Cosgrove hitting a 3 after chasing down her own missed shot to regain possession. Then the bumps in the road started getting in the way – actually they were more like big speed bumps.
The smooth offense was suddenly finding it hard to complete passes, and shots just did not fall. There were turnovers at one end and a lack of defensive rebounds at the other end. They got the disjointed offense back in line and with 1:31 to go, Cosgrove’s 3 made it 14-7 Conard. Madison Handrahan hit back-to-back 3s for the Guardians and it was 14-13 after one.
The hosts came out in the second applying trapping defensive pressure and forcing turnovers. Just 2:25 in, Knowles weaved between three Glastonbury players in the lane and delivered a hoop to make it 20-13. On the next possession, Knowles would drive the baseline, kicking it out to Nicole Gorman who hit the short jumper in the lane and it was 22-15.
Those would be the last points Conard would score in the second, going more than 3 minutes without hitting another shot. Meanwhile Glastonbury found its touch and when Ramajana Skopic hit one of two free throws with 21.3 seconds to play, it was a 22-all tie. Conard had the chance to break the tie, but lost track of the clock and never even attempted a shot before the buzzer sounded.
“We need to get on the same page out there,” Cersosimo said of her team.
As the final two quarters began, Conard started strong, looking ready to make a run. Just 90 seconds in they had scored once and then Courtney McPhee stole the ball on defense, got it to Knowles who found Cosgrove for her second straight basket and it was a 4-point lead.
It took Glastonbury less than two minutes to erase that lead and take the 1-point advantage when Brianna Jordan hit three of her game-high 24 points to make it 27-26. Skopic hit a 3 of her own to push the lead to 30-26. Cosgrove and Knowles each hit a pair of free throws and it was tied up again at 30, and when Knowles forced the turnover and got the pass off to Cosgrove who converted it was a 2-point Conard lead with 3:12 to play. The third would end with Conard holding a 3-point lead and hoping to keep that lead through the fourth.
The mental errors came back to haunt Conard as the final 8:00 began. Trailing 43-38, Glastonbury scored to cut it to a 3-point game. The Red Wolves were then called for a violation on the inbounds pass after the hoop. Glastonbury’s Cora Cwiertniewicz scored and with just :50 played; it was now tied at 50. They took the lead and then stole the ball from Conard and Skopic hit for two and the Guardians had a 47-43 lead after just 1:46 of play in the fourth.
Over the next two minutes, Glastonbury managed to keep its composure, keep Conard from doing much on offense, dominate on defense, and build a 53-43 lead.
Conard fought back and when Cosgrove and Knowles hit back-to-back 3s it was just a 2-point lead for Glastonbury with 1:11 to play. On the visitor’s next possession, Conard stole the ball, but then gave it right back to Glastonbury with a turnover at mid court and they converted for a 55-51 lead with :43 to go. With 24 seconds to go, Cosgrove hit the last of her 22 points on another 3, and Conard was down by just 1. The Red Wolves forced a pair of tie-ups as Glastonbury tried to move the ball up court, the second of which gave Conard the ball in front of its own bench, just feet from the basket, down 1 with 14.2 seconds to go.
Out of a timeout, Conard moved the ball into the lane, but Glastonbury defenders swarmed to the ball and forced a turnover with only 2.8 seconds remaining. Cwiertniewicz was fouled and calmly sank both shots to ice the game at 58-54.
When asked after the game if her team was getting tired, Cersosimo responded, “You don’t come back from 9 down like that if you are tired.”
Knowles would end the game with team-high 23, and Cosgrove had 22 to combine for 45 of the team’s 54 points. The game was Conard’s final home game of the regular season as they head to Avon on Friday and then are at Hall on Monday to wrap things up.
… During warmups, the Conard players all wore shirts supporting Morgan’s Message. The foundation advocates for good mental health and is named after a former Duke lacrosse player who committed suicide last year. Conard junior Nicole Gorman – who also plays lacrosse – is an ambassador for Morgan’s Message and addressed the crowd ahead of the game, detailing their message and letting people know how they can support the cause. “I saw it on social media and thought it was a great thing to do,” she said. “Sports are a positive thing in my life and a great outlet.” Her head coach – Laurie Cersosimo, who is also a therapist – said she and her staff always try to keep the lines of communication open with the players offering them the support they need. “Kids need to know it’s okay to have a bad day,” Cersosimo said. “You can’t be perfect all the time. You need to be okay to be okay in life.”
… There was a surprise starter in the Conard lineup on Tuesday night: Ryelle Gomes. The sophomore had torn her ACL in the fall and moved back to West Hartford from Georgia. “She has been here every day,” Cersosimo said. “It was the least we could do to let her start in the final home game of the season.” By agreement with Glastonbury and the officials, Gomes was in for the opening tip, and the and then the game was halted and Emily Knowles replaced Gomes, but not before giving her a big hug and letting her teammates and the crowd show Gomes their appreciation with a loud ovation.
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