They've been there, and done that. And that's why they won. The Conant High girls basketball team is certainly no stranger to big games, Fall Mountain is. So despite the fact that Fall Mountain played hard, played well, and gave Conant all they could handle, in the last couple of minutes in a close game when it mattered most it was Conant who made the necessary plays in order to get the win.
Brooke Springfield (9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and ZERO turnovers), Kim Daniels (game-high 14 points, 5 rebounds) and Holly Hodgman (6 points and 9 rebounds) combined have played in about 100 playoff games together. That experience and poise was the difference, as Conant defeated Fall Mountain 39-35 in the Division III girls basketball semi-finals on Wednesday night at Southern New Hampshire University.
Below are video highlights, plus a post-game interview with Springfield and Daniels. If you would like a copy of the complete game tape with play-by-play, HD quality video, halftime reports and post-game interviews email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Brooke and Holly have been doing this for 4 years and Kim has been right there with them for 3 years now" said Conant head coach Nick Hill.
Fall Mountain had a chance to win this game though and pull off the upset. But Conant was more calm under pressure late in the game,and they escape with the win.
Conant led 29-19 early in the 4th quarter. It looked like they were in complete control, and just appeared to be the more talented squad. But Fall Mountain is a very scrappy group, and they made a 7-0 run to cut the Oriole's lead to just 3, 29-26. The Wildcats were getting some strong team play, led by forwards Erin Maclean, Monica Torney and guards Jenn Allen and Jess Zabielski.
Right after the 7-0 run by Fall Mountain though, Daniels hit a BIG three-pointer from the left wing on the secondary break to push the lead back to 5, 32-26. Conant then got some very good ball movement at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Wildcats began double-teaming Springfield each time she got the ball. Springfield got the ballto Staci Keenan, who then passed it to Hodgman. She then immediately passed it cross-court to Emily Coll, who then made a nice bounce pass across the lane to Daniels, who then got fouled going up for the shot and went to the line. It was terrific ball movement by Conant. And a game that was sloppy for the first fewminutes was now turning into a game to remember.
In the 4th Fall Mountain once again refused to go away. Torney made a nice runner off the glass inside to make it a 3 point game, with Conant now leading just 37-34. A Wildcats free throw made it 37-35 after Zabielski made 1 of 2 from the line with 2:11 left to play.
Conant then turned the ball over, as they continued to have problems with Fall Mountain's defensive strategy of doubling Springfield.
Torney then went to the line for a 1-and-1m with a chance to tie the game up if she could make both shots. Torney missed the front end however, so it was still 37-35 Conant, with 1:26 left in regulation.
Conant was able to run the clock down, and it was now time for Fall Mountain to start fouling. Springfield is the player that you definitely do NOT want to send to the free throw linein this situation. And to the Wildcat's credit, they did a nice job of denying her the basketball. They were able to send Coll to the line for a 1-and-1. Coll missed the front end, so all Fall Mountain had to do was secure the rebound and they would have plenty of time on the clock to try and tie the game or possibly take the lead with a three.
Unfortunately for Coach Dutille's team, the ball went out of bounds, last touched by the Wildcats. Instead of Fall Mountain having a chance to tie it up, Conant now had the ball back with a chance to ice it from the charity stripe. Fall Mountain had to foul right away, but instead the ball was inbounded to Keenan and no foul came. She passed the ball over to Hodgman, and still no foul by the Wildcats. The clock was ticking on their hopes of an upset. That's when sophomore forward Teresa DiTommaso broke free wide open under the basket. It was her third field goal of the game, but none were more important than that one. Fall Mountain got the ball back, but now they were down by 2 possessions, 39-35 with just 1.7 seconds remaining. Game over.
"Because of our schedule, we just don't play a lot of these high pressure games" said Fall Mountain head coach Curt Dutille. "I know why they do the regional scheduling, but I don't like it. They do it to cut down on the long busi rides, so the kids can get their homework done and get some sleep. But if your region is weak and doesn't have many quality teams, it is really tough to be ready for the playoffs. "When you win 14 games by 25 points or more it is tough to be prepared for these close, end-of-game situations. The only 2 games all year where we've experienced this was against Conant."
Title Game = Conant vs. Campbell
Justlike I predicted way back in the fall, it will be Conant vs. Campbell for the D-III girls title on Saturday night back at SNHU. Campbell has won both regular season meetings between the 2 teams, but Conant has beaten Campbell in the championship ganme twice in the last 3 years.
"To beat a team 3 times in a season is VERY tough" said Coach Hill. "Tonight was our third time playing agaisnt Fall Mountain, and in the beginning we were very shaky."