Conner’s senior class has won 72 games and three straight district championships, with Monday night being Senior Night, it was a good night to reflect on the past.
But with an opponent like Newport, the Wildcats didn’t leave much time for that.
In the end, the Cougars (13-6) seniors rose to the occasion in big moments for a 69-64, double overtime victory Monday night in Hebron.
“I don’t know if there’s ever a good opponent on Senior Night and we really only picked it because we only have one home game left. Wanted to leave ourselves a little weather buffer because as we saw yesterday, they could say there’s one inch coming in and you get about five,” Cougars coach Matthew Otte said. “
The Wildcats (16-5) had Conner down late on multiple occasions. First a 43-36 lead with under four minutes to play in regulation. The Wildcats led 45-41 with under a minute to play before the Cougars closed with four straight points, a turnover leading to a Landen Hamilton layup in the closing seconds.
In overtime, it was Taylen Kinney scoring six straight points to build a Newport 51-48 lead and 56-53 with the clock winding down. This time it was Ayden Lohr tying the game up on a 3-pointer, the Cougars then taking a charge to get the ball back with seven seconds left.
Lohr’s triple wouldn’t fall in the corner at the horn, sending the game to another overtime at 56.
After two Marquez Miller free throws to start the scoring off in double overtime, Conner responded with five straight to take a 61-58 lead with 1:15 to play.
Newport then missed two good looks at 3-pointers, it was Lohr again with a big response, hitting a 3-pointer in the corner where he missed the first one in the first overtime. It looked as if the Cougars were trying to run the clock out, but with Lohr wide open he didn’t hesitate with a little more than 30 seconds left.
“My years here at Conner our coaches have really preached playing with confidence. If I have the confidence to shoot the shot wide open in the corner, I’m gonna take that shot, same with anyone else on our team. We have the confidence in each other to knock down shots like that and the big moment,” Lohr said.
While Otte was happy with the result, it was just one of those moments where you look back and laugh.
“That was the, ‘No, no, no…yes’ shot,” Otte said.
But Newport wasn’t done yet, Kinney converting a 4-point play after a banked 3-pointer and a foul.
Daniel Campbell then stepped up to the line to drain two free throws and essentially seal the game. Finally.
“It helps with the seven seniors that we’ve got that they’ve been through this stuff before. They know how to just kind of keep playing and they did tonight. They ended up coming back, playing well and doing it together,” Otte said.
In a game that could possibly be an eventual 9th Region tournament matchup, someone had to lose.
“We told our guys they got three players that were involved in a ninth region championship two years ago. So they have some good experience. So we told them that margin of error has to be very, very low. Limit mistakes because they’ll make you pay for it. That’s kind of what happened,” Wildcats coach Rod Snapp said.
Newport jumped out to a 10-7 lead, Kinney scoring the Wildcats first eight of the contest. Conner responded with a 7-0 run to take a 14-10 lead into the second.
The Wildcats locked down in the second quarter, allowing three points as they took a 22-17 lead into the break.
“Felt like we controlled the tempo. We just really have to use time management and shot selection a little better. And you’ve got to make free throws,” Snapp said. “But these are really good moments to prepare us for end of February, early March.”
The Cougars responded with a 6-0 run out of the half to reclaim the lead, but it was short lived as Newport answered with a 7-0 run to take a 30-25 lead. The Wildcats led 36-34 after three.
Conner tied it up to start the fourth, but an over four minute scoring drought propelled Newport into a 43-36 lead with less than four minutes to play.
Kinney led the Wildcats with 29 points, Miller notching a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Lohr led the Cougars with 21 points and six rebounds, Hamilton adding 20 to go with six assists. Conner has now defeated Covington Catholic, Holy Cross and Newport this season, three teams considered in the mix to win the region this year.
“This is a special group,” Lohr said. “We’ve played with each other for a few years now, a lot of us have grown up together. So it’s really special.”
NEWPORT — 10-12-14-9-11-8 — 64
CONNER — 14-3-17-13-11-13 — 69
Newport (64) — Kinney 29, Miller 12, Covington 9, Turner 9, Lowe 3, Anderson 2
Conner (69) — Lohr 21, Hamilton 20, Reece 7, Fay 6, Kramer 6, Campbell 6, Louden 3