By: Tuesday and Friday
Laconia used the combined 36 point scoring effort of seniors Kailey Nute and Natalie Compton to upset the undefeated #1 seed at the raucous SNHU Fieldhouse. Conant senior Madison Springfield scored 27 points in her last game to end one of the best careers in NH high school basketball.
The game plan at the start of the game was simple for Laconia. The Sachems went at the bigger and stronger Orioles with a relentlessly fast paced offense. Laconia bolted out of the gates to take a 22 to 9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lakes Region girls had great spacing on offense, moved the ball around at a crisp pace and shot 53% in the first quarter. 5’5 bundle of energy Calyce Swormstedt scored the first 4 points for Laconia to give them a 4 to 2 lead a minute and a half into the game. It would be a lead Laconia would maintain until the very end of the 3rd quarter. Kaily Nute hit two 3’s to keep the Laconia offensive engine going. Conant called 2 time outs in the first stanza to cool down the Lakes Region girls.
In the 2nd quarter Madison Springfield did what she does best and started putting the Orioles on her back. She scored 12 points in the 2nd period on a combination of hitting buckets and drawing contact and going to the line to knock down 6 free throws. This became a key pattern for the game: Springfield going to the line and how Laconia had their defensive game plan for her. Conant outscored Laconia 16 to 8 in the 2nd quarter to draw within 5 at 30 to 25 at halftime.
Both teams had the nice halftime to rest, but both teams seemed to become more methodical offensively to start the 2nd half. There was no scoring until a Springfield put back off of her initial missed shot put the score at 30 – 27 with 5:45 left in the 3rd. There was no scoring for the next 2 minutes until a Compton runner made it 32 to 27 Laconia. Both teams were looking tired. Not too many times do these 2 teams play on a long college court during the season. Both teams play their home games in very comfy cozy gyms. It seemed like the extra length of the SNHU court was becoming a factor.
With 10 seconds left and the score tied at 37, junior Megan Wheeler was in possession of the ball under the division line and every Oriole fan from Manchester to Jaffrey yelling for her to do something. The tough as nails 5’4 guard drove to the hoop under pressure and drew contact at the buzzer. With an empty lane she knocked down 1 of the 2 free throws to give Conant their first lead of the game since the opening minutes.
The crispness Laconia had lost on offense in the previous 2 quarters came back in the 4th quarter. A Compton floater made it 39 to 38 Laconia with 5:50 left in the game. A minute later Kailey Nute hit a 3 in Big Shot Brittany Roche territory (That’s for Lady Lancer fans) to give Laconia a 42 to 38 lead. With 4:38 left Springfield hit a 3 to draw the orioles to within 1 at 42 to 41. The teams traded FTs and shots over the next 3 minutes until the biggest shot of the game came. With Laconia up 1 at 44 to 43 and looking for answers on offense against the high pressure Oriole defense, Kaily Nute calmly buried a dagger 3 to give Laconia a 47 to 43 lead with 1:30 left.
Conant’s only answer offensively was Springfield. She tried with shot after shot to rescue the orioles in the last 90 seconds, but after having multiple Sachems thrown at her all night defensively, came up short. With 21 seconds left Springfield fouled out and made her last walk on a Granite State court to the bench….. A sad ending for an illustrious career. She finished with 27 points, 16 of which came from the FT line….. More on this later…..
The Laconia game plan was to spread the ball around on offense and they did it successfully. Laconia simply had more players that found the SNHU nets. Besides Springfield and senior center Sarah Gonsalves (combined 42 points), the only other player to score for the orioles was Megan Wheeler with 3 points. Laconia used the balanced scoring of role players Swormstedt, Marchione and Howe to their fullest advantage, with a combined 16 points, to advance to the title game.
The other factor in this game was the multiple defensive bodies Coach Jeff Greeley threw at Springfield. This tired Springfield out. Yes, she scored 27 points, but she really had to work for it. 16 of her 27 points came from the FT line. Her outside shot, especially from 3 Land, never really got into a groove. Laconia had offensive and defensive balance in this game and it is why they came away with the big upset victory.
Laconia advances to play an undefeated Gilford club who defeated Fall Mountain in the other semi-final 53 to 46. This Lakes Region rivalry championship will be played this Saturday at 4:00 pm at SNHU. Gilford won the regular season contest on Feb. 10th 83 to 81 in 3 overtimes. If these 2 teams replicate that game this Saturday at 4:00 pm it will be a game that will be talked about in the Lakes Region forever !!