NEWPORT – The Conrad girls basketball team hadn’t played a game in 17 days going into Friday’s home showdown against Caravel.
The Buccaneers had played four games in that timeframe, and that continuity showed as No. 5 Caravel screamed to an 18-point lead after one quarter and held sixth-ranked Conrad at bay the rest of the way for a 50-33 victory.
“It’s still not perfect. We still haven’t put it together for four quarters,” Buccaneers coach Kristin Caldwell said. “But for one quarter, and a great start that just uplifted the whole group, that’s what we had today.”
Caravel (6-3) took control immediately. Maia Bryson hit a 12-footer, Kaylee Otlowski banked in a layup and Grace Lange scored off Otlowski’s steal and assist for a 6-0 lead that prompted a Conrad timeout just 1:13 into the game.
“We came out flat, didn’t take care of the ball,” Conrad coach John Kulesza said. “But you’ve got to give Caravel credit. They’re a very talented team, they go deep, and very well coached.”
The onslaught continued, as Otlowski made a 15-footer and Bryson dropped a 3-pointer after Lange’s rebound started a fast break. Sasha Marvel and Otlowski canned jumpers, and Bryson and Marvel made layups off of turnovers for a 20-2 lead.
“Sometimes this season we’ve gotten turnovers and ended up getting nothing out of it at the other end,” Caldwell said. “In the first quarter, we got turnovers and layups. The girls shared the ball. We had forwards running the break and getting assists.”
The Buccaneers’ plan was to run early and often. It worked even better than expected.
“We try to get a lot of baskets off transition, and when all of our teammates are running the floor like we should, we always get a good basket in transition,” Bryson said.
Caravel led 22-4 after one quarter, and 30-15 at the half. But the Buccaneers knew Conrad (7-1) wasn’t going to give in.
“We came out knowing that they were 7-0,” Otlowski said. “We had to play really well, and we came out with a fast start. We just had to keep going from there.”
Conrad pulled within 36-24 on a free throw and jumper by Alyssa Faville with 6:46 remaining. Then Conrad got the ball again with a chance to cut the lead to single digits, but Bryson responded. The junior made a steal that led to Marvel’s layup, then scored off another turnover. Then Karli Cauley drove for a layup that pushed the lead back to 42-24 with 4:17 to play.
Kulesza’s team took the same 17-day break last season, and wound up winning three DIAA tournament games to make a surprising run to the semifinals.
“We use it as a second preseason,” the Conrad coach said. “Last year, we felt it kind of helped us in the middle to the end of the season. Hopefully that does the same this year. Obviously, it didn’t show tonight.”
Caldwell has taken a different scheduling strategy. Caravel’s losses have come to top opponents from Wisconsin, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the Buccaneers’ next game is at No. 4 St. Elizabeth next Friday.
“Sometimes that’s tough on the kids mentally. It’s hard for them to see the bigger picture that I see,” Caldwell said. “But tough game after tough game after tough game, we’re going to come out all right in March, at the end of it.”
Bryson scored 13, Marvel had 12 points and eight rebounds and Otlowski added 10 points and eight boards for Caravel. Faville led Conrad with 17 points.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.