HINSDALE — Although spectators were at a minimum, energy certainly was not during Conant boys basketball’s 58-41 win over Hinsdale on Thursday.
From the start, players and coaches alike brought the intensity in a rematch of Tuesday’s game, where the Division 3 Orioles blew out the D4 Pacers, 77-46.
Both teams were pressing and keeping pressure on the opposition, and Hinsdale (0-3) found a way to hang around against the upper-division opponent up until midway through the fourth quarter, when Conant (4-0) pulled away.
“We’ve got a lot to work on,” said Conant head coach Eric Saucier. “In practice, we’re only able to go four-on-four or four-on-five, so it’s good for us to go five-on-five to see where we need to clean things up. We definitely have some things to clean up.”
Senior Colson Seppala led the Orioles with 16 points, and senior Hayden Ketola scored 12 points in the win.
“Hayden is Hayden,” Saucier said. “This was probably his best offensive output. But what I saw from him was he was a good leader tonight. On the defense, he was pointing guys to where they need to go, and he needs to do more of that. It’s good to see.”
Ketola said he normally focuses more on the defensive end, but seemed to find the basket Thursday.
“I don’t really come into any games trying to score as much as I can, I just try to stop their best player,” Ketola said.
Hinsdale’s best player Thursday was senior Arth Patel, who put up a game-high 18 points, 14 of which came in the second half.
“That kid plays like he’s 185 [pounds]. He’s ferocious,” said Hinsdale head coach Carl Anderson. “He’s bringing his teammates up. He brings it, and he’s not afraid to bring a teammate with him. He’s a great leader.”
“I was feeling confident,” Patel said. “During the game, my first shots weren’t going in, but I was focused.
“Confidence,” he emphasized. “That’s all we say during practices and games.”
There’s no doubt the young Pacers team gained confidence after Thursday’s showing, even in the loss. After a 30-point blowout just two days prior, Hinsdale bounced back and held their own.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of this team effort,” Anderson said. “The effort that was put on this floor by everybody tonight was outstanding, and I think we just continue to grow.
“The biggest thing is that we’re starting to gel together, and you saw that tonight,” Anderson added. “That’s the mark of a good team in itself.”
The team’s energy throughout the night was evident, to the point where Anderson accidentally snapped his mask on the bench and had to grab another midgame.
“That’s why I have a whole pack in my bag,” Anderson said with a laugh. “But you have to have that [energy]. Energy is huge with these guys. We talked about being positive and lifting one another up. We’re not flashy, we’re not big, but we’ve got a lot of heart.
“We play a Division 3 schedule, and I told these guys from the get-go, ‘Don’t look there during these games,’ ” Anderson said, pointing at the scoreboard. “Because the growth we’re going to see during the season is going to happen by playing better teams that are bigger, faster, stronger than us, and you’re going to continue to grow.”
Hinsdale was originally scheduled to play Keene High in a two-game, home-and-away series next week, but with Keene’s competitions on hold until Feb. 1, both games were canceled. With the loss of those two games, the Pacers have already lost three games this season.
They are next scheduled to visit Mascenic Regional High School on Feb. 2 at 6 p.m.
Conant hosts Monadnock Regional High School on Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m.