High schools: Conant hands Hopkinton boys’ basketball first loss of season

Monitor staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

CONTOOCOOK – Consider Thursday night’s game for the Hopkinton High boys’ basketball team as a wake-up call.

The Hawks entered their Division III battle against Conant with a high level of confidence and the odds in their favor, bringing their unblemished record onto their home court against a smaller, undersized program.

The Hawks left with a dose of reality after the Orioles hung on down the stretch to hand them their first loss of the season, a 62-58 defeat.

“When you come into a gym like this and play against a good team like that, the odds are stacked against you,” Conant coach Eric Saucier said. “So I told my guys that we have to be tougher than them tonight … They’re bigger. They’re stronger. So (my guys) had to play with a little more heart and we found a way to win.”

Hopkinton (7-1) had been on fire entering play with seven straight victories, but lost the lead to the Orioles (5-2) a few minutes into the first quarter and could never reclaim it. The Hawks nearly erased a 10-point deficit in the final 1:30 of the contest – getting as close as one possession – before Conant’s Peyton Springfield (21 points) iced the game with a 4-for-4 showing at the free-throw line in the closing seconds.

“It’s a wake-up call because I think they’re believing what they’re seeing in the papers instead of going out and playing hard,” Hopkinton coach Steve Signor said. “I think we needed it. I think it’s something we’ll be able to build on. We’ll watch the film and see some of the things we did well, because we did a lot of good things, but we did a lot of things we need to fix.”

Conant proved to be a tough test for the Hawks from the opening tip. The Orioles forced them into contested jumpers and outside shots in the first quarter while Conant aggressively drove the ball inside for an 18-12 advantage after one.

Zach Signor buried a 3-pointer on the first shot of the night, but Hopkinton shot 1-for-11 from beyond the arc for the rest of the quarter, a big reason why it fell behind.

“It wasn’t working,” coach Signor said of the offense early on. “That wasn’t really the gameplan to start, it was actually to put the ball inside and they didn’t. They drifted away from the paint and settled for outside shots that weren’t working and that’s what happens.”

Coming out of halftime trailing, 27-21, Hopkinton began to look more like itself.

Instead of letting it fly from deep, the Hawks patiently worked their offense, feeding Kevin Newton-Delgado on the block and choosing to take the 3-pointers only when Conant collapsed on the bigs in the paint. Newton-Delgado scored all eight of his points in the second half and Hopkinton closed the gap to 33-31 in the third quarter when senior Kevin McGrath drilled a tough turnaround jumper.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, anytime they chipped away at the lead, Conant’s Jake Drew had the answer with his dribble-drive penetration. Drew finished with 16 points and served as a thorn in the side of Hopkinton all night long.

“They were the aggressive team and we weren’t,” Signor said. “The dribble penetration was tough and we allowed too much of it.”

“That’s (Drew’s) best thing,” Saucier said. “He’s good at going to the basket and he’s done a good job turning the corner this year and having more confidence in it. He’s a captain now so he’s starting to play like it.”

Hopkinton nearly stayed perfect on the year with its late run in the fourth quarter as Dustin Rose (22 points, four 3-pointers) and Zach Signor (10 points in fourth quarter) helped cut the lead to 60-58 with 6.1 seconds left. But the Hawks couldn’t get the miss at the free-throw line they needed from the Orioles.

“We can grow from those last couple of minutes,” coach Signor said. “If we play a game like we did in those last few minutes with a sense of urgency the whole time, we’ll be tough to beat. It was a nice wake-up call right here and (Saucier) did a nice job of preparing for our guys.”

Hopkinton will have some time to rest before hosting Campbell on Wednesday.

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)


Fall Mountain 56,
Hillsboro-Deering 42

Key players: H-D – Zach Rowell (11 points), Kyle Merrill (8 points), Elijah Winters (6 points), Kiyle Brown (5 points), Ben Ketterer (5 points, defense), Jonathan McMahon (defense)

Highlights/key moments: The Hillcats are taking steps in the right direction as they trailed by 14 at halftime and played even ball in the second half for their closest result through six games this season.

Coach’s quote: “We’re turning things around.” – H-D’s Carl Doucet

Records: Fall Mtn. 5-3; H-D 0-6


Merrimack Valley 55, Coe-Brown 26

Key players:MV – Abby Grandmaisson (16 points), Carly Huckins (12 points), Aislinn McDonald (6 points); Coe-Brown – Val White (8 points), Jenny Bettencourt (6 points), Sydney Gast (4 points)

Highlights/key moments: The Bears and Pride were even, 8-8, in the first quarter, but MV took off on a 12-0 run to establish a lead it protected to the end.

Coach’s quote: “We really showed our inexperience tonight. Physically we didn’t compete and that is frustrating. I expect we will pull ourselves up off the ground, dust ourselves off and prepare for Kingswood on Tuesday.” – Coe-Brown’s Joe Vachon

Records: MV 4-4; Coe-Brown 2-5


Oyster River 5, Concord 0

Highlights/key moments: The Bobcats scored three goals in the first period and two in the second.

Coach’s quote: “Another tough loss for the Tide. Dug ourselves a hole early, but we stuck together through it and made the changes necessary to stop the bleeding. The way we ended the game shows a lot about this team’s character.” – Concord’s Patrick McDonough

Records: Oyster River 5-3; Concord 3-4