NHIAA Div. III boys' basketball: Another crown for Conant's boys
MANCHESTER - Three years ago, Conant of Jaffrey boys' basketball coach Eric Saucier watched Jake Carlson, Devin Springfield and Josh LeBlanc shooting around shortly after the Orioles had just won their fifth straight state title.
The three freshmen were really along for the ride at that point, soaking up the championship experience. Saucier let them know that was going to change.
"I said 'You just saw what I want you to have,'" Saucier.
Saturday afternoon, in front of a full house at the Southern New Hampshire University fieldhouse, Carlson, Springfield and LeBlanc got theirs.
The three seniors helped the second-seeded Orioles pull away from No. 5 Campbell of Litchfield, 66-46, in the championship game of the Division III tournament. Springfield (10), Carlson (12) and LeBlanc (4) all scored.
It was the 10th title in the program's history and the sixth in eight years. Springfield's father Dave was part of the 1985 team that won the first title.
"This one feels like it's mine," Springfield said after patiently letting his teammates penalize the Cougars for paying too much attention to him.
Springfield had 27 points against the Cougars when the Orioles beat them in Litchfield in the final week of the regular season. Campbell coach John Langlois wanted to make sure that didn't happen this time around, so he had his team play a diamond-and-one defense to slow down Springfield.
The strategy worked ... kind of.
Springfield was held to five points at halftime, but the Orioles (21-1) had a 34-20 lead. That's because junior Rob O'Brien had 10 of his game-high 21 points and five other players also had points.
The Orioles found the open spots on the perimeter of the zone to knock down five 3-pointers, while working over the Cougars (17-5) on the glass, turning 11 offensive rebounds into 10 points.
The Orioles scored on their first four possessions of the game to jump out to a 9-2 lead and finished the quarter on an 8-2 run to go up 17-6. They were up by as many as 19 in the second quarter.
"My teammates were getting wide open," Springfield said. "I'll stand in the corner all day."
Langlois switched to a triangle-and-two in the second half to stop Springfield and O'Brien and that worked for a while. Conant managed just two field goals in the first six minutes of the third quarter and Campbell point guard Max Gouveia scored 12 of his 19 points as the Cougars got to within 41-34 going into the final quarter.
A 3-pointer by Gouveia with 2:22 left in the quarter made it 39-33, the closest the Cougars were to the Orioles since late in the first quarter.
It did not last.
O'Brien scored on a driving layup to open the fourth quarter and knocked down a pair of free throws after one of Campbell's 17 turnovers to bump the lead back to double-digits. The Cougars never got closer than nine after that.
Unlike the first meeting between the teams in January - when Campbell rallied from 15 down in the third quarter to beat the Orioles in Jaffrey - the Orioles never buckled as they held the Cougars to 12 points in the final quarter.
"After that first game, I said to my assistant coach that that game might win us a state championship," Saucier said. "It was a wakeup call."
Division III Championship
Conant 66, Campbell 46
Campbell: Max Gouveia 7-4-19; Jackson Musco 1-0-3; Jason Rodonis 1-1-3; Zachary Bergeon 2-2-6; Nick Freson 2-2-6; Connor Shalin 1-1-3; Trevor Duquette 3-0-6. Totals: 17-10-46
Three-pointers: Gouveia, Musco
Conant: Jake Carlson 6-0-12; Kyle Carland 4-0-10; Devin Springfield 3-4-10; Rob O'Brien 7-5-21; Elisha Hodgson 1-2-4; Nick Panagiotes 2-0-5; Josh LeBlanc 2-0-4. Totals: 25-11-66
Three-pointers: Carland 2, O'Brien 2, Panagiotes
Campbell (17-5) 6-14-14-12-46
Conant (21-1) 17-17-7-25-66