Neither came within 20 points in their games against Northwest Catholic so engaging in any West Hartford King-of-the-Mountain debates is moot.
Yet on Tuesday night, the Conard High gymnasium was near capacity. Hall students wore their cool blues; their Conard counterparts wore their bright reds.
The Chieftains’ three-sport star Ricky Cotton, fresh off a second-place finish in Saturday’s wrestling tournament, led the cheers, but they didn’t last long because Cinderella came through the door in a blue coach.
Conard may be going to the Class LL tournament and Hall is staying home but senior Tim McGeary and his Warrior classmates had the last laugh after a 54-37 shellacking that completed a two-game sweep of this year’s rivalry series.
McGeary had a team-high 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added three assists. Chib Uche had 10 rebounds from the point guard slot. Aidan Coll chipped in with 10 points and eight caroms.
And then there was Sergeo Narvaez, the resilient senior with the stirring Michael Jordan story. Narvaez was cut from the team as a freshman, sophomore and junior but made the grade this season. He got the start and scored nine points. It was just that kind of night for the Warriors (5-15, 4-10 CCC West).
“We knew they were going to the tournament and we weren’t so we definitely wanted to go out there and show West Hartford who’s really the boss,” Uche said.
Anthony Lugo was a one-man gang for the Chieftains (8-12, 2-12) scoring 22 points on 9-for-15 from the field and four steals. The rest of the team made just six buckets and misfired 31 times.
Defense and a huge rebounding advantage spelled the difference.
“A lot of times everybody would box out, it would be a long rebound and our guard would get it because the big men did such a great job of boxing out and keeping the floor open,” McGeary said.
Guards Uche and Sam Linabury had 16 rebounds between them, nearly as many as the entire Conard team.
“From the beginning, [Coach Bryan Moretti] said we needed to rebound,” Uche said. “Last time Matt Douglin killed us on the boards. We had to box out and get rebounds. We knew if we stopped them and got more rebounds we had a good chance of winning the game and that’s what happened.”
Moretti, after watching his team come together in the previous two games, would welcome a few more games.
“The last two games we played Northwest and Glastonbury and we played excellent basketball against both teams,” Moretti said. “We just carried it over. I think we’re playing pretty good basketball right now.”
His counterpart John Benyei has at least one more game. He said he hopes his boys got the clunker out of their system because they’ll be playing one of the top teams in the state on the road come tourney time.
“It was frustrating for everyone,” he said. “We never followed our game plan. It was disjointed play out there. I never felt like I was a part of it as a coach.
“Unfortunately, the Hall-Conard thing got in our heads. It was, ‘Touch the ball, try to win the game,’ and that’s not the way you play basketball. We were out of position on offense and defense. They were much tougher than we were. They were more physical on the boards. They played defense harder. They attacked us on offense harder. All the credit goes to them. They really took it to us.”
In the season’s first encounter between the rivals, Hall turned back Conard at home, 51-48, in double overtime on January 20.
“[The tournament’s] nice but I’ll take the sweep,” McGeary said. “It’s in your town. It’s much better beating your rival twice.”
Hall 54, Conard 37
Hall (5-15): Sergeo Narvaez 4 0-0 9, Chib Uche 2 0-0 4, Sam Linabury 2 1-2 5, Tim McGeary 7 2-2 19, Aidan Coll 4 2-2 10, JeVaughn Fisher 1 0-0 2, Corey Roth 0 0-0 0, Dan Horwitz 2 0-0 5, Deandre Byers 0 0-0 0, Reid Silverhart 0 0-0 0, Tom Honyotski 0 0-0 0, Jonathan Greenfield 0 0-0 0, Matt Houpert 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 5-6 54.
Conard (8-12): Matt Douglin 1 0-2 2, Anthony Lugo 9 3-4 22, Luis Colon 1 1-4 3, Adam Litke 1 0-0 2, Sean Carneiro 1 0-2 2, Doug Horan 1 1-2 3, Travis Sinatro 0 0-0 0, Will Simons 0 0-0 0, Karon Golding 1 0-0 3, Caleb LaRosa 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 5-16 37.
Hall 15 13 16 10 – 54
Conard 15 8 8 6 – 37
Three-point goals: Narvaez, McGeary 3, Horwitz, Lugo, Golding.