Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Springfield Dominates in Debut

In her first ever high school basketball game, freshman guard/forward Madison Springfield dropped a game-high 28 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out 4 assists and also had 4 steals. Springfield led the Conant High girls basketball team to an impressive 55-37 win over a very tough Campbell team on Tuesday night at the Pratt Gymnasium in Jaffrey.

It was one of the best performances you will ever see in the state of New Hampshire for a kid playing her first ever high school game.

Springfield is following in the footsteps of her older sister Brooke, who scored 1,000 points, led the Conant girls to two D-III state titles and won three Player of the Year awards. Brooke is now the starting point guard for SNHU as a sophomore.

Not only is Madison trying to break free from her big sister's shadow, but she also had the added pressure of having coaches from Boston College and Marist in attendance scouting her (she already holds scholarship offers from UMass and Providence).

Not only that, but Madison and her teammates were going up against a Campbell team that has made 5 consecutive title game appearances and is one of the favorites in D-III once again this year.

"I was pretty nervous at first, but that went away after the first minute of the game" said the 5-foot-11 Madison Springfield. "Brooke has told me to expect a target on my back but to not worry about it. She said to just block everything else out, go out there and play and always make it about the TEAM".

Madison did just that. Yes, scored 28 points (and could have had more but had a few shots inside just barely rim out). But she really didn't force anything out there, and also made some great passes.

Those passes went to a number of Springfield's teammates who also played well. Senior forward and third-year starter Teresa DiTomasso had 5 points (including a clutch post-move and finish in the 2nd half) and 6 rebounds. Sophomore guard Katie Chadbourne connected on three 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. Senior guard Margaret Maloy did a great job of breaking the Campbell press and also had 5 points. Sophomore guard Kelsey Martin provided energy off the bench, while forwards Heather Bilodeau and Sarah Gonsalves provided size up front.

"We played in a summer league and a fall league together" said Springfield. "We have also been scrimmaging our boys JV team. Plus me, Katie and Sarah played together on the same middle school team."

This was anyone's ballgame early on, as the teams traded baskets and Conant led 17-13 after the 1st quarter. Campbell was getting strong play early from sophomore guards Hannah Neild and Kylee Julia, Brianna Hardy and forward Alex Trevains.

The Cougars were right there despite shooting 0/8 from 3-point range in the 1st quarter. Campbell was able to get some good looks from the outside due to their good ball movement and the fact that Conant was playing a zone defense.

On the other end, Conant was having no problems breaking the Campbell full court press. Late in the 1st quarter they got the ball to Springfield around the 3/4 mark and she took it strong to the bucket for a couple of layups (one of them an and-1 finish).

The 2nd quarter was virtually even. Campbell finally started to hit some threes, as Julia and Hardy both connected from the outside. Conant was able to hold on to the lead though, as they answered back with a hoop (or two) every time Campbell got to within one possession. DiTommaso followed up her own miss with a shot inside and Maloy hit a nice baseline floater.

Conant was only up 28-23 at halftime, but the 2nd half was all Orioles. Both of Campbell's starting guards (Neild and Aly O'Donnell) sat for a few minutes in the 2nd quarter as well as the majority of the 2nd half with foul trouble. That open things up for Springfield and her teammates to make a run. Although they struggled on the defensive boards Conant dominated every other phase of the game in the 2nd half.

"We knew this was a bench mark game to see where we were at as a team" said Conant head coach Nick Hill. "We heard that in their opener they were in mid-season form (Campbell beat Mascenic 75-30 in opener). We knew that we would be tested physically since we only have 8 girls on the team and that we had to be ready."

Conant really started to move the ball well and look for each other in the 2nd half. Chadbourne made a nice pass to a back door cutter, then DiTomasso made a greta pass to a cutting Chadbourne for a layup. Then Springfield finished back-to-back shots inside to give the Orioles their largest lead, 39-27 late in the 3rd quarter. Julia hit a runner in the lane at the buzzer, but Campbell still trailed 39-29 heading to the final quarter.

Then in the 4th quarter, with Neild and O'Donnell still sitting on the bench with foul trouble, the flood gates opened up. Chadbourne hit another 3-pointer, DiTomasso converted a put-back and then Springfield drilled a three of her own. This was turning into a blowout, with Conant now on top 48-33 with just 3:48 left in the 4th quarter.

Neild and O'Donnell then returned to the lineup but it was too late for a comeback, as the Orioles cruised to the 55-37 win.

The story of this game, of course, was the play of Conant's freshman sensation. Springfield showed the ability to drive or finish just as strong with her left as she could her right. She rebounded, passed, defended, hit step-back threes, she's the real deal.

"Both Brooke and Maddy are great kids, good students, but very different players" said Coach Hill. "Brooke was a point guard who was more methodical, looked to dish it more but could also score. Maddy goes inside a lot more, since she is 5-foot-11. But at the same time she can play all five positions for us."

This game was a possible Final Four preview, as both Campbell and Conant are contenders in D-III. If this game was played at Campbell instead, and if Neild and O'Donnell didn't have sit sit out so much with foul trouble it may have turned out differently. But the bottom line is Conant played great team basketball on both ends of the floor and they have possibly the best player in the division with Springfield. Tonight they made a statement that they are for real.

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