Northwest Catholic dominates West Hartford rival Conard in the second half to improve to 2-0.
By Marlon Pitter
Trailing Conard 22-21 at halftime, Northwest Catholic head coach John Mirabello said he challenged his team to “lock in mentally” and play smarter defense.
The Lions (2-0) responded by outscoring the Chieftains 26-7 in the second half en route to a 57-29 win Monday night in West Hartford.
“I told the kids I was a little animated at halftime, but I was saying, ‘This is good because we need to go through this,’” said Mirabello. “[In] the last game we had a big lead, so we had to learn how to handle prosperity. Now we had to learn how to be down, a little adversity. We’re getting a lot out of these early games. I’m really, really proud of the kids that they responded the way they did.”
Conard (1-1) took control of the game early, finding open shooters beyond the arc to take an 18-11 lead early in the second quarter. Northwest Catholic led 21-20 late in the quarter, but Peter Simplicio made a buzzer-beating layup to give the Chieftains their one-point lead at halftime.
“I just don’t think we were communicating well at all,” Northwest Catholic sophomore Matt Curtis said of his team’s first-half struggles. “We were giving them easy baskets, and we just weren’t running everything smoothly offensively.”
Curtis scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to help fuel the Lions’ takeover. Selwyn Paul and Landell Green added 13 and 12 points respectively. Connor Olechna led the Chieftains with 11 points.
Guy Ragland Jr. and Curtis connected on consecutive fast break dunks to give Northwest Catholic a 38-23 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter. The Lions scored 23 points in the third quarter, surpassing their first-half output to take a 44-25 lead into the fourth.
“What it looked like was we stopped moving the ball on offense,” said Conard head coach Jared Leghorn. “We had a gameplan that we thought we executed pretty well and then kind of just got away from it in the second half. That’s on me, and that’s on all of us to make sure we stick with it next time.”
Leghorn said the Chieftains will look to build on their strong first-half performance as the season progresses.
“We showed what we can do, and then we showed that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “All this was was a really good early test for us against, I think, one of the best teams in Division III. We showed we could compete with the best. We just need to do better to do that for all four quarters.”
Conard will travel to Bethel (1-2) Friday afternoon, while Northwest Catholic will host Suffield (2-0) Saturday afternoon.
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