Senior point guard Brooke Springfield was as good as advertised on Monday night, scoring 29n points (including 14/15 from the free throw line) to lead the Conant girls basketball team to a 40-35 win over a tough, scrappy, well coached Fall Mountain team in Division III action.
With the win the Orioles improve to 10-1 on the season. Fall Mountain is still a very respectable 10-2 on the year. But make no mistake, Conant was heavily favored in this game, especially on their home floor over at Pratt Gymnasium in Jaffrey. It wasn't supposed to be this close. But give Fall Mountain credit. With 3 minutes left in the game they actually led this game 35-34.
This was a terrific basketball game, and a great atmosphere as always at Conant High. Just one day after I saw perhaps the best Division I girls game all year (Trinity/Memorial), tonight I see probably the best Division III girls game all year.
Springfield Put on a Show
The 5'8" senior point guard put the team on her back and led them to a hard fought win. Springfield started off a little slow, with just 5 points in the 1st quarter. Fall Mountain meanwhile came out of the gates sharp and quickly took an 11-5 lead.
Towards the end of the 2nd quarter though is when Springfield got in a rhythm. Conant got out on the break, and she made an outstanding spin move and finished with her left hand off the glass. Springfield then hit a nice pull-up jumper from 18 feet, and the momentum was definitely on their side, as the crowd now really started to get into it as well.
Conant then went on a 17-3 run, and after trailing 11-5 early, they were now ahead 22-14. Jess Zebielski and Jenn Allen were doing everything they could to keep Fall Mountain in it, but Springfield was just too much to handle. Allen had a nice blocked shot on Springfield, and then Zebielski (8 points) drained a long two-pointer. Springfield was not to be denied however, as she was simply unstoppable in the 2nd quarter. She netted 8 points in the quarter, and finished the 1st half with 13 points, 3 steals and 2 assists. She had a pair of very nice passes for baskets, one to Kim Daniels and one to Teresa DiTomaso. She then hit a very difficult shot near the end of the half, driving to the basket she was defended well and forced to fade away a little bit as she took the shot and there was also some contact. But she still manged to bank the shot off the glass with the left hand, and Conant went into the locker room up 24-16.
Fall Mt. Battled Tough, Hung in There in 2nd Half
Conant kept their lead going at 26-18 early in the 3rd quarter. But to Fall Mountain's credit they made a comeback, going on an 8-0 run to tie the game at 26-26.
"I knew it was going to be a battle" said Conant head coach Nick Hill. "They played us tough over at their place too, and they're a well coached team."
Erin MaClean grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in to tie the game up. Zabielski also had 5 points for the Wildcats as part of the run.Springfield answered right back with a drive and finish to put the Orioles back on top 28-26. Then right after that MaClean came right back by hitting a foul line jumper to tie it back up at 28-28. The teams were going back and forth, making for a great game and the fans made for a great atmosphere.
Conant then went on a 6-0 run to take a 34-28 advantage, as Springfield found guard Staci Keenan for a lay-up on a 3-on-2 break. Just when it looked like they might be in control of it, Fall Mountain once again answered back. Molly Sheppard picked up a loose ball and went the length of the court. Springfield was right there guarding her, but Sheppard kept driving hard and went up strong with it. She laid it in nicely off the glass. Then right after that Haley St. Pierre took a charge on Springfield. Then the biggest shot of the night for Fall Mountain came from Whitney Allen. Off of a baseline out of bounds play, Allen caught the ball at the top of the kept and immediately put up the shot. The three-pointer sailed through the air and through the net, putting the Wildcats on top 35-34 with just 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
Unfortunately for Fall Mountain, they would go scoreless for the rest of the game, while Springfield went 6/6 from the free throw line to ice the game for Conant.
"Our problem is our schedule" said Fall Mountain head coach Curt Dutille. "We don't play a lot of teams this good, so we don't play in a lot of these types of close, intense basketball games. So because of that we made some mistakes down the stretch. This experience will make us better, though."
The best chance for the Wildcats came when they were only down by 1, 36-35. They had the ball and worked it around for a good shot. Zabielski caught a pass from the high post by Monica Torney and had a very good look inside. She put up the shot, it went off the glass, rolled around the rim and then popped out.
Conant however also missed their fair share of inside baskets. Although Springfield had 29 points, she also had a few lay-ups that just barely rimmed out on her.
Fall Mountain also had a chance late when they had the ball on the sideline down 38-35. But then Daniels stole the ball off the inbounds. She went up for a lay-up but missed it and the Wildcats got the rebound. They pushed the ball ahead to Whitney Allen (who hit the only three-pointer Fall Mountain made all game) but she dropped the ball and Conant came up with it. After 2 more foul shots by Springfield the game was over.
A great game though, between 2 teams you can surely expect to go deep into the Division III tournament come March. Conant's only loss came to Campbell a couple weeks ago, when they lost by over 20.
"The Campbell game got us re-focused" said Coach Hill. "We didn't play our best tonight, but we played well against Bow."
Springfield is already the all-time leading scorer in Conant basketball history, she's the 2-time defending Class M Player of the Year, she's won 2 Class M titles and has committed to play her college ball at Southern New Hampshire University. What I was impressed with the most is that despite the fact that she really has nothing left to prove or accomplish, Springfield still played harder than anybody else in that gym. That's what you like to see from your senior leader.
For Fall Mountain, they are a unique team in that they don't really have any stars. What they have is 7 girls who all play hard and play as a team. They're tough, scrappy and well coached. And on Monday night they showed that they can compete with anybody in D-III.