The Conant High boys basketball team forced over 20 turnovers on defense and on offense they had 6 different kids hit three-pointers. When you do that you have a pretty good chance to win the game.
"Our defense stepped up" said Conant junior guard Devin Springfield. "Our trap was working, we tipped some passes, forced turnovers and then we just all got going as a team."
Springfield led a balanced scoring attack for the Orioles with a game-high 16 points. He was one of the 6 Conant players who hit a three, along with Jake Carlson (12 points), Steven Hodgson (10 points), Robert O'Brien (9 points), Eli Hodgson (4 points) and Dan Sirois (3 points). It's not everyday that a team has 6 kids who all hit a three in the same game. Conant might lack size / a low post presence, but they are very deep, they're all fast and they can all shoot it. And oh yeah, they all pressure the heck out of you on defense.
"The key for us was defense and rebounding" said Conant head coach Eric Saucier. "And we do this drill in practice called 60 shots which allows all the kids to get up a lot of shots everyday."
Campbell actually started off this game pretty good, and it wasn't until the 2nd quarter when Conant really started hitting on all cylinders. Conant hit lots of threes in this game, well Campbell was too early on. Junior guard Max Gouveia drilled a pull-up three to put Campbell up 10-5 with 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter. Springfield answered right back by pulling up from 18 feet and knocking down a shot of his own. Then Campbell got some instant offense, as Jackson Musco came off the bench and immediately hit a three from the corner to put the Cougars up 15-7. That was Campbell's largest lead of the game.
However that is when the momentum swung over the Conant. Just mere seconds after the three by Musco, Carlson answered right back for the Orioles with a trey of his own. Conant then got into their full court press, got a turnover and then Carlson got a layup. That was the beginning of a 9-0 Conant run, as they took their first lead of the game 16-15 early in the 2nd quarter.
Then right after that the momentum continued to swing into Conant's favor, as Gouveia picked up a technical foul. Springfield made both of the technical free throws, Conant got the ball back, and Gouveia was forced sit for the rest of the game. Not only is Gouveia one of Campbell's best players, but when you're going up against a team like Conant that presses all game and really pressures opposing guards defensively out on the perimeter you need your best ball handlers out there as much as possible. And Campbell's best ball handlers are Gouveia and sophomore Jesiah Wade. That's when Campbell really started to turn the ball over a lot and had trouble getting into their offense. Conant was able to turn those turnovers into layups and three-pointers on the other end.
"The technical was huge" said Campbell head coach Pat Roye. "But I thought Carlson was the key for them. Not only did he hit shots, but he got them into their offense and made some plays on defense too. Hodgson was also tough, hitting those 2 threes late. Our team went over and saw Conant play Mascenic earlier in the season and Conant hit 15 threes that game too. They're deep, they get after it and they make the extra pass."
The 2nd half is when Conant really opened things up and the game got away from Campbell. Carslon and O'Brien hit threes late in the 3rd quarter to push the Conant lead to 40-25 heading to the 4th. Campbell 6'7" junior center Caleb McKearin (7 points and 7 rebounds) was a big factor early in the game when the Cougars were leading as he was a force inside scoring and rebounding. But as the game went on he became less of a factor. Then in the beginning of the 4th quarter Steven Hodgson hit back-to-back three-pointers followed by a trey by his little brother Eli Hodgson. From there the Orioles cruised to the 58-35 win.
"Our guys know the game is a marathon" said Coach Saucier. "We don't want to come out and use all of our energy in the 1st quarter. It's a long game, and we're usually able to wear teams down with our press and our depth."
Steven and Eli are younger brothers of Ezra Hodgson, who was one of the best players in the state last season and is now playing college ball at Plattsburgh State. Springfield is trying to become the 4th member of his family to score 1,000 points in a Conant uniform. The last one was his older sister Brooke who now starts at SNHU. Additionally, one of Campbell's top players is junior wing Jacob Morgan, whose older brother Josh was a 1,000 point scorer at Campbell and is now playing at NHTI.
With the win, Conant makes a statement to the rest of Division III that they are for real. Right now it looks like Conant and Berlin are a notch above the rest in D-III. They don't play each other during the regular season, so there is a chance that they will play each other in the championship game come March and both going into that game with perfect 21-0 records. What a story that would be!