Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Springfield Leads Unbeaten Conant Past Pelham

It's no secret that Conant High's 5-foot-11 junior guard Madison Springfield is NHIAA's best girls basketball player. On Tuesday night she showed why, dropping a game-high 38 points to go with 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks to lead the Orioles past a scrappy Pelham team 77-58. Conant is now 10-0 on the season (13-0 counting holiday tournament wins).

Springfield hopes to make a college decision in the next couple of months. She has narrowed her choices down to Marist, Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Rhode Island (each have offered her scholarships). A Marist coach was at the game tonight vs. Pelham.

Just 3 minutes into the game Pelham had already turned the ball over 5 times and Conant jumped out to an 11-2 lead. The Orioles led 16-6 late in the 1st quarter, with 9 of those points coming from the foul line (they shot 9/10 from the charity stripe in the 1st quarter alone).

"You just can't go down that deep, we need to be sharper in the beginning" lamented Pelham High head coach Bob Shepard. "We changed up on #21 (Springfield)" said Coach Shepard. "We put someone smaller, Lauren Anderson on her. Conant has a good coach though, and he adjusted by putting #21 in the low post and she hurt us down there."

Springfield ran the point at times but also posted up down low, depending on the flow of the game and how Pelham was defending her.

"Maddy's an all-around player" said Conant head coach David Springfield. "You can put her anywhere. We saw she had the size advantage down there, so we went to it until they made an adjustment. We have some darn good shooters, so if she is down low she can kick it out and you have to choose which one to defend."

Conant led by as many as 20 points. Freshman guard Eva Hodgson began the 3rd quarter with a strong baseline drive and finish, and then Springfield used a screen to find room to hit a pull-up jumper from the foul line to make it 42-22 Orioles. Hodgson is one of the top freshman players we've seen this winter. At that point it looked like Conant was going to run away with it.

But give Pelham credit for fighting back to make it a game. Sophomore guard Jessica Lessard (11 points) hit a pull-up 3-pointer and then teammate Lauren Anderson (7 points) banked in 3 and just like that Conant's 20 point lead was down 12, as Pelham was on a 10-2 run.

Megan Wheeler stepped in and took a charge for Conant (was a good call). Then it really started to rain 3'd inside the Snake Pit. Springfield hit a step-back 3 from the top of the key, but Lilly Shlimon answered with a 3 of her own from the top of the key. After a quick layup by Pelham sophomore Shannon Morin cut the Orioles' lead to 47-37, but Ivy Chalke hit a 3 on the other end for Conant off the catch from the top of the key. Just seconds later on the other end it was another 3 ball by Shlimon, who also got fouled on the shot. The Conant lead was now just 9, 50-41 with 1:22 left in the 3rd quarter. The teams had just combined to hit six 3-pointers in 4 minutes.

Springfield made a strong move and finish inside, and then made a good move in the low post by turning and banking in a fadeaway jumper. It was 56-42 Conant after 3 quarters.

Springfield continued to dominate the paint in the 4th quarter, ripping down an offensive board before kicking it out to Wheeler for a 3. Shlimon (10 points) banked in a runner but then Springfield scored 2 more inside to make it 61-44 Conant with 6:4 left and forcing Coach Shepard to call timeout. The Orioles were on an 11-3 run.

Lessard countered with a 3-pointer, then grabbed a quick steal, went hard to the rim and banked in a runner, and-1. The Pythons were refusing to quit, but Conant still led 63-49 with 5:00 left.

Katie Chadbourne (9 points on three 3's) hit a 3 off a drive and kick by Hodgson and the Orioles were once again pulling away, up 68-50 with just 3:30 left in the 4th quarter. Pelham senior guard Katelyn Suprenant (team-high 14 points) went coast-to-coast for a strong finish, on the other end Conant answered as Hodgson made a nice pass to Springfield for a layup but Lessard drove for an and-1 finish as Pelham just kept on fighting to stay alive. It was now 70-55 Orioles with 2:30 remaining.

Suprenant drove, made a nice spin move into the lane before hitting a leaner. Conant was still very much in control though, up 72-57 with 1:41 left. Chadbourne put the icing on the cake with a 3 from the corner, and the Orioles cruised to the 77-58 win.

"The girls were really fired up for this one, said Coach Springfield. "We got out to the early lead, 11-2. They had to play uphill the whole game. I think they just ran out of gas at the end."

Conant jumped on top early in the 1st quarter, as Springfield finished a layup off a baseline out of bounds play and then Hodgson drilled a 3. The Orioles then easily broke the Pelham press, resulting in a 2-on-1 the other way. Chadbourne dished it to junior forward Sarah Gonsalves for a layup and a 7-0 Conant lead with 6:26 left in the 1st quarter. Coach Shepard called timeout.

Freshman forward got the Pythons the board, with a layup off a baseline out of bounds play. But then Pelham's turnovers started to come fast and furiously, while Conant pounded the ball inside to Soringfield and Gonsalves who routinely either scored or got fouled and went to the line.

Conant went up 11-2, but the Suprenant hit a foul line pull-up followed by a jumper from the foul line off the catch. The Pythons' turnover woes continued in the 2nd quarter. Conant was converting those turnovers into quick points on the other end. Springfield made a strong drive, spin move and and-1 finish (good move and finish but a phantom foul call). Then came another Pelham turnover, and Springfield made them pay again, burying a foul line jumper to make it 23-11 Conant. The Springfield Show continued, as she used a nice hesitation dribble drive move to get to the rim, slashing through 3 defenders for a finish in traffic. Springfield had 15 points already and Pelham as a team had 13.

Hodgson hit a 15-footer to make it 27-13 Orioles, and then Springfield blocked a shot on the other end. Springfield made a good lead pass to start a fast-break to Hodgson who went hard to the rim, got fouled and hit both FTs. Then Hodgson made a back door cut, Springfield hit her with a pass right in stride for a layup. Just seconds later Conant got a quick steal and Springfield went hard to the bucket for another and-1. It was all Conant, 33-13 with 2:05 left in the 2nd quarter.

Pelham then caught a break, as Conant was whistled for a foul as the Pythons shot a 3 (didn't look like a foul). Chadbourne hit her first 3 of the game to make it 38-19, and it was 38-21 Orioles at halftime. In the 1st half Pelham had about 15 turnovers and Conant shot 14/16 from the foul line.

Springfield scored her 1,000th career point last week, joining her brother Devin, sister Brooke and father Dave in Conant High's 1,000 point club.

Conant is the favorite to win the D-III championship this year. The first time these 2 teams met, Conant won 72-66 in Jaffrey. The top 3 teams in D-III are likely Conant, Pelham and Campell. The standings don't reflect this however, because of an unbalanced schedule.

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