Monday, December 13, 2010

Conant Cruises Past Mascenic

Many people around NH (myself included) think there should be a shot clock in NH high school basketball. Well judging from Monday night's boys basketball game between Conant and Mascenic it is a non-issue. I highly doubt there was one possession all game by either team that lasted longer than 12 seconds.

It was a fast paced game where both teams brought plenty of intensity. But the difference was the 2nd quarter, where Conant went on an 18-0 run and outscored Mascenic 26-6 in the quarter. Led by tight defense and strong team play, Conant defeated Mascenic 80-51 in Division III action.

Gotta Love the Atmosphere at Conant
There wasn’t a parking spot to be found anywhere. There wasn’t a seat to be found anywhere in the gym. The place was packed, it was loud and all of the fans are right on top of the court. Conant and Mascenic are two neighboring schools and rivals. And it was Conant’s first home game of the season after winning 5 straight titles. It all made for a great night of basketball in Jaffrey.

Mascenic Came Out Strong in 1st Quarter
The Vikings actually led this game 18-16 after the 1st quarter was over. They were able to come out of the gate strong and match the Oriole’s intensity. 6’0” senior guard Mikey Martel was the go-to-guy for Mascenic, scoring 9 points in the 1st quarter to lead the Vikings to the surprising lead after 1. Martell is very quick off the dribble, explosive going to the rim and also a good shooter. Guards Aaron Slyman and Damon Salo also played well for the Vikings, giving Mascenic three scorers in double figures.

Also helping Mascenic’s cause was the fact that they were able to get two of Conant’s better players in foul trouble. Seniors Claude Jean and Ezra Hodgson both picked up 2 fouls in the 1st quarter. To Mascenic’s credit they were doing a nice job of attacking the basket.

Conant jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead as Hodgson came out hot shooting the ball and also took a charge on defense. Mascenic answered right back with a 6-0 run, as Martel hit a nice pull-up from the left elbow. Slyman then had a nice and-1 finish in transition to tie it up at 13-13 late in the quarter. Conant forward Trevor Steffenauker then had a nice steal and and-1 finish right before the end of the frame.

Dominating 2nd Quarter by Conant was the Difference
Martel scored 9 points in the 1st quarter, but Conant was able to hold him scoreless in the 2nd (he only scored 2 points over the game’s final 3 quarters).

“We knew we had to contain him” explained Conant head coach Eric Saucier. “We wanted to hold him to 15 or less and we did that.”

The Orioles were hitting on all cylinders in the 2nd quarter, scoring 18 points in a row and outscoring Mascenic 26-6. Everyone was playing well for them, especially Hodgson, Dan Sirois, Nate Robarge. Sirois and Roberge might be a small back court (both are only 5’7”), but they are effective. Both players did a very nice job of using their ball handling and quickness to get into the lane and make plays.

Conant was playing some suffocating defense. They were pressing full court and trapping in the half court. They were forcing Mascenic to take quick shots and then when they got the rebound they would quickly push the ball in transition and get easy baskets on the other end.

"When we play defense we win basketball games" remarked Hodgson, a 6'5" senior forward.

Hodgson is the leader for this team and showed a superb all around game. He was especially good in the 2nd quarter, and he scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the 1st half. Towards the end of the quarter 6’1” sophomore guard Devin Springfield drilled back-to-back threes. He finished with 16 points and shot 5/6 from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard Jake Carlson played well off the bench. The Orioles trailed after the 1st quarter, but at halftime they led 42-24. In that 2nd quarter Conant looked like world beaters, and although they have a bunch of kids who were only playing their 2nd varsity game they definitely looked like a top team in Division III.

"It's a 32 minute game" said Coach Saucier. "We're just trying to wear teams down and play solid defense."

Conant has one of the biggest home court advantages in the state, and they really fed off the crowd during their 2nd quarter run.

Conant Cruises in 2nd Half
Mascenic didn't play bad in the 2nd half, as the game continued to be played at a very fast pace. But the Vikings hung tough. In addition to Martel, Salo and Slyman, they also got solid play from 6'3" forward Israel Shaw, Andrew Martel and junior forward Zeb Smith. They kept fighting and playing hard. However it did seem at times that Mascenic was a team with a few pretty good individual players, but they just didn't play as well as a team as Conant did. Lots of isolation plays going on offensively for the Vikings.

In the 2nd half for Conant Jean was able to get free under the basket for some easy baskets, Springfield continued his hot shooting and Sean McGlynn played well off the bench. Jean finished with 10 points on the game.

Other Notes
*Free throw shooting really hurt Mascenic, as the Vikings shot 11/23 from the charity stripe.
*If you take away the 2nd quarter, Mascenic only lost the other 3 quarters by 9.

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