JAFFREY — The Conant boys basketball team lost three of the five meetings with Monadnock this year, including two in the final week of the regular season.
But they got the one that matters most in the end.
Conant came back from down seven late in the fourth quarter to beat the Huskies, 54-48, Monday in Jaffrey in the preliminary round of the NHIAA Division 3 tournament, ending Monadnock’s season and extending its own.
“That’s a great win for us,” said Conant head coach Eric Saucier. “Those guys battled. I’m so proud of them because that’s a good team. A really good team.”
The Huskies had built up a seven-point lead with just over four minutes left on the clock, but after two quick three-pointers from Malique Motuzas (eight points) and Jacson Cross (five points), the game was suddenly tied at 45 with just over two minutes to play.
Then, with less than 1:30 on the clock, Colson Seppala, who scored a team-high 20 points, gave Conant the lead for good.
All in all, it was an 18-5 run for the Orioles in the final 4:18 of the fourth quarter that sent the limited Conant crowd home happy.
“All year it’s been reversed. We’ve had these [games] that we’ve given away; but tonight, for some reason, we were able to battle back,” Saucier said. “Our motto is, ‘Just keep playing hard and see what happens.’ Play hard and you always have a chance.”
Monadnock’s Jake Kidney, who finished with a game-high 21 points, hit a three-pointer with 33.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter to bring the Huskies within two.
“He’s a winner,” said Monadnock head coach Jim Hill of the senior. “Sorry we let him down in terms of our execution in the end. He played his heart out.”
But Seppala got to the line late and hit his free throws to twist the figurative dagger in the hearts of Monadnock fans across the region.
After losing to the Huskies three times this year, Seppala said the team knew something had to change.
“We knew we had to just work harder in practice,” Seppala said. “That’s all it comes down to.”
Both Seppala and Saucier admitted that in the last two meetings between these teams, Conant did not show all of its cards on the court, knowing that they were going to be meeting in the first round of the playoffs.
But they put it all out on the table Monday.
“When it comes to playoffs — one game — anything can happen,” Saucier said.
And that’s the mentality the team needs to bring in its next matchup against Hopkinton on Wednesday, Saucier said, a quick turnaround from a hard-fought game on Monday.
“Our guys are beat up right now. It took a lot to get this win,” Saucier said. “So, they have to find a way mentally to come back on Wednesday because our goal isn’t just to win the first round.”