It’s 27 in a row now for the Conant girls basketball team, and the team makes it look oh so easy.
The Orioles (6-0) took down Division 1 Keene (0-1), 71-50, Wednesday at Keene High School in the Blackbirds’ season opener.
“I don’t think it’s anything too crazy,” said Conant head coach Brian Troy on the win streak. “We just focus one day at a time. We know we have a lot of challenges ahead of us, and we just want to make sure we don’t look too far ahead. I tell them all the time, the score will take care of itself if you put in your best effort.”
Conant senior Elizabeth Gonyea, who scored a game-high 23 points on Wednesday, said the streak is something the team has in mind, but added that the girls understand that the streak won’t continue on its own.
“We come into every game and we have to prove it, and obviously keep winning, to keep it,” Gonyea said.
Sophomore Emma Tenters controlled the boards on Wednesday, in the first half particularly, and scored 15 points in the win. Sophomore Brynn Rautiola scored 12.
“I thought the girls played tough,” Troy said. “Good overall team win. Good spread of the wealth there for offense. When we got rebounds and steals, we ran the ball really well and got easy looks on the other end.”
For Keene, junior Elyza Mitchell led the way with 17 points.
“She’s a tough one,” said Keene head coach Stacey Massiah of the junior captain. “She’s taking this captain role really seriously, which is awesome.”
Senior Kaitlin Lemnah finished with 16, and Kirsten Farhm had eight.
Conant looked like a well-oiled machine from the start, scoring the first 10 points of the ballgame.
Keene couldn’t quite find its rhythm in the first quarter. Chalk it up to first-game jitters, not practicing for the past two days because of the snowstorm or having a young team out on the court against real competition for the first time.
Against the reigning D3 state champs, at that.
“The new cast of girls that’s with the old cast is just trying to find their way right now to see where they fit in,” Massiah said. “But it was good to at least have them playing and seeing these girls actually scoring. The newbies, they’ll be fine. Back to the drawing board tomorrow.
“Watching the new crew blend with the old crew, it was nice. It was good to see,” Massiah added. “We try to mix things up in practice, but you never really know until you actually come out and play against somebody else.”
“There’s a lot of new girls on varsity,” Mitchell said. “So we’re still working out the kinks. For having half the team being new, we’re working really well together.”
The Blackbirds did chip away at that early 10-point deficit, thanks in part to a three-pointer from Lemnah to start the second quarter.
But Conant controlled the rest of the first half, taking a 39-26 lead to the locker room.
And Gonyea made sure to shut the door in the second half, with a three-pointer on the opening possession of the third quarter to set the tone. She scored 15 of her 23 points in the final two frames.
“I haven’t been able to find my shot in the first half, so I was able to at least find it in the second half of this game,” Gonyea said. “My teammates knew I was hot, so they were feeding me the ball well.”
After that, the Orioles were well on their way to the 21-point victory.
“It’s a good one to learn on right here,” Massiah said. “Conant, they’re great. I tip my hat off to them.”
With Wednesday’s win, Conant has now beaten one team from each NHIAA division — 1, 2, 3 and 4 — in this season alone.
Keene next hosts Lebanon Friday at 6:30 p.m., with another matchup against Conant on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Jaffrey.
Conant’s next game is that rematch against Keene on Saturday.