MANCHESTER - Conant of Jaffrey is back in the championship game of the Division III boys’ basketball tournament for the first time since 2010 and, not surprisingly, it’s defense that carried the second-seeded Orioles past No. 3 Newport, 65-42, in the first of two semifinals Tuesday night.
Conant (20-1) returns to the Southern New Hampshire University Fieldhouse for Saturday’s championship game (3 p.m.) against No. 5 Campbell of Litchfield, which beat No. 1 Berlin, 62-44, in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Junior guard Rob O’Brien keyed a defensive effort that saw the Orioles hold the Tigers to their second-lowest point total of the season.
O’Brien (14 points) and senior guard Devin Springfield (26 points) also set the tone for an attacking offense that scored 22 of their 25 field goals on drives to the basket or low post moves. The Orioles were 25-for-46 from the field.
On the other end, Newport was 15-for-47, 6-for-22 from the 3-point stripe, and leading scorer Andrew Houde was kept in check. The super sophomore came into the game averaging 22.4 points, but he was held to 18 points on 7-for-22 shooting.
Newport coach Steve Lavolpicelo said most teams used some kind of gimmick defense to guard Houde, but expected nothing but man defense from the Orioles and he was right. O’Brien asked Conant’s Eric Saucier for the assignment.
“I challenged Robby tonight to do that and he did a great job,” Saucier said.
“We’re used to seeing a lot of gimmicks, but we didn’t believe Conant would do that. They’re too proud,” Lavolpicelo said. “They didn’t need to and they proved that tonight.”
While Newport (19-2) finishes off its most successful with three sophomore starters gaining valuable experience, the Orioles are a veteran team looking to bring the school its sixth title in nine years.
They showed that experience by building an early lead and protecting it with their trademark defense. This was the 14th time Conant held an opponent under 50 points.
Springfield scored eight of Conant’s first 10 points as the Orioles jumped out to a 10-2 lead midway through the first quarter. He set the tone on the first possession of the game, taking a pass near the foul line and driving hard to the basket.
The Orioles built leads of 20-8 after one quarter and 32-21 at the half by being aggressive on both ends of the floor.
Derek Pare (12 points) gave the Tigers a lift, making a pair of late 3-pointers in the second quarter, the second to cut the Conant’s lead under double-digits. They would never get closer.
Campbell 62, Berlin 44: Top-seeded Berlin was denied a chance to defend its title Tuesday as fifth-seeded Campbell High of Litchfield sprung the upset, 62-44, in the semifinals of the Division III boys’ basketball tournament at Southern New Hampshire University.
The Cougars (17-4) now shoot for their first state title Saturday when they return here to play second-seeded Conant of Jaffrey at 3 p.m. The two teams split a pair of games during the regular season.
Berlin (19-2) followed up its championship season of a year ago by going 17-1 during the regular season with a roster consisting of one senior, six juniors and seven sophomores. Its youth, however, showed against the Cougars as it struggled at both ends of the court.
Meanwhile, the Cougars were led by a trio seniors: center Nick Freson led Campbell with 19 points, forward Jacob Morgan with 15 and point guard Max Gouveia with 12.
Sophomore forward Levi Arsenault led Berlin with 17.
The Cougars surprised the Mountaineers by jumping out to an 11-2 lead midway through the first half. They led 15-7 after one quarter and 25-23 at the half.
Freson led the way, making five of six shots for 10 points. The Cougars were 11for-20 from the field, but were held back by 14 first-half turnovers.
Berlin struggled, shooting 9-for-27 from and 5-for-11 from the foul line, but got back into the game with eight offensive rebounds. Arsenault — younger brother of Berlin’s top player from lat year’s title run, Curtis Arsenault — led the way with 13 points and three offensive rebounds.
Campbell’s only other trip to the finals came in 2003, when the Cougars lost 40-39 to Inter-Lakes.
Conant 65, Newport 42
Newport: Spencer Coronis 0-4-4; Peter Wacholtz 1-0-2; Zach Whalen 2-0-4; Devin Wade 1-0-2; Andrew Houde 7-2-18; Derek Pare 4-0-12. Totals 15-6-42
Three-pointers: Pare 4, Houde 2
Conant: Jake Carlson 1-0-2; Kyle Carland 3-2-8; Devin Springfield 8-8-26; Rob O'Brien 6-2-14; Elisha Hodgson 4-1-9; Nicholas Panagiotes 3-0-6. Totals 25-13-65
Three-pointers: Sprinfield 2
Newport (19-2) 8-13-14- 7-42
Conant (20-1) 20-12-18-15-65