MANCHESTER — In what seems to be a tradition, Conant and Campbell again went at it hard on Thursday at Trinity High School in Manchester in the NHIAA Division 3 semifinal. Conant earned the scrappy victory, 65-45, to advance to the state title game for the second year in a row.
Junior Teagan Kirby made her presence felt early, scoring 16 of her 18 points in the first half.
“Teagan is a huge X-factor,” said Conant head coach Brian Troy. “She really answered the bell. She stepped up when she needed to. She was awesome.”
After falling behind early, Conant climbed back into the game and used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to get out to a 32-24 lead at the break.
But it was a 12-0 run for the Orioles to kick off the second half that just about put the game away. Kirby, sophomore Brynn Rautiola (six points) and classmate Emma Tenters (16 points) all scored.
“We wanted to go back to the ‘chip,” Kirby said. “So we just have to put it all out on the floor and go 100 percent the entire game.”
Senior Elizabeth Gonyea, who finished with 18 points, contributed as well.
“I felt pretty confident offensively,” Gonyea said. “But I always tell my teammates, going into any playoff game, it’s going to be a team win, points don’t matter.”
The senior picked up her fourth foul toward the end of the third, forcing her to the bench for the final 4:09 of that frame.
Even without their leading scorer, the Orioles continued to grow the lead throughout those final minutes of the third.
“That stretch was huge,” Troy said. “We had to survive those [four] minutes, and they were able to do it. They kept their composure.”
“When I went out with foul trouble, it was just next man up,” Gonyea said. “Roll it in. Keep it going.”
The game’s physicality showed, as Kirby also found herself in foul trouble in the third quarter, but she stayed in the game.
Junior Mylie Aho, who had seven points, had fouled out by the end of the game.
“We knew the game plan going in, they were going to be physical with us,” Troy said. “And they took it to another level. We’re just happy to get out of here with a win. We know Campbell is a tough matchup for us every year.”
Part of what put Conant in foul trouble was not picking up rebounds on the defensive end. Campbell has size down low, with 5-foot-11 senior Karleigh Schultz (16 points) and 5-foot-10 senior Tori Allen (12 points), who dominated the glass all night, forcing Conant into situations where they picked up fouls.
“I don’t think we did as good as we could’ve rebounding,” Troy said. “But it was enough to at least get the win and move on.”
Despite falling behind big in the third, by as many as 24 points, Campbell kept fighting until the final buzzer. Bodies were flying across the court, girls were diving for loose balls — every possession was a grind.
“Ice always makes everything better,” Gonyea said. “But when you win … you feel great.”
Campbell built up some momentum in the fourth quarter, but was still down by 20 early in the final frame.
By the midway point of the quarter, the Conant crowd was starting to feel the victory.
Next up for Conant is their well-known rival, Fall Mountain, in the state title game Sunday at 2 p.m. at Trinity High School. Fall Mountain was the last team to beat Conant, in the 2019 semifinals. Last year, Conant beat Fall Mountain in the title game to complete its undefeated state championship season.