The Leland & Gray girls’ basketball team has been playing a tough schedule this season with seven of their first 14 games against Division II opponents. But the Rebels ran into an even tougher opponent on Jan. 24 in Townshend as they took on Burr & Burton, the third-ranked team in Division I.
Rebels coach Terry Merrow knew it would be a tough game. Before coming to Leland & Gray two seasons ago, he was Burr & Burton’s coach.
“I used to coach all of them,” Merrow said of the players on the Bulldogs’ varsity roster. “They have a lot of talent, but they also aren’t afraid to be physical.”
The Bulldogs’ willingness to throw their weight around turned out to be the Rebels’ undoing: they lost, 54-20.
Leland & Gray kept the game reasonably close in the first quarter as the Bulldogs took an 11-6 lead. But the game quickly was put out of reach as the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run in the first three minutes of the second quarter. By halftime, the lead was 27-12. By the end of the third quarter, it was 45-15 Bulldogs.
“They were pushing us around and we let them get away with it,” Merrow said. “The fact that there were no fouls called in the third quarter tells exactly where the referees were at with this game.”
It was indeed a lightly officiated game, as neither team made many trips to the line. Leland & Gray was called for only six fouls in 32 minutes of play, while Burr & Burton had just 10 fouls in the game.
But Merrow was quick to credit the talent of Burr & Burton, not the non-calls by the referees, as the reason why his team lost.
“We tried to run our motion offense today but we didn’t have good ball movement because of Burr & Burton’s defense. That is a team that plays good and hard,” he said.
And this is precisely the kind of experience Merrow wants his team to have going into the Division III playoffs. “I wanted our team to face tougher teams because that’s what we’ll see in the playoffs. We’re 5-10 now, if we can win four of our last five games, I think we can host a playoff game.”
Senior forward Maggie Oliver led Burr & Burton with 19 points. She was the only Bulldog who went to the free-throw line, and she converted on five of her six chances. Hannah Nicholson and Tessa Roberts added 10 and 9 points, respectively. Haley Buffum and Jessalyn Stockwell scored six points apiece for the Rebels.
• Twin Valley’s unbeaten streak this season ended at 12 in Brandon on Jan. 24 as the Wildcats were knocked off by Otter Valley, 55-41. The Otters are the fourth-ranked team in Division II and this game was seen as one of the toughest on the schedule for Twin Valley.
Four nights earlier the Wildcats cruised to a 53-26 victory over Arlington. Sam Molner and Skyler Boyd each had a double-double, with Molner scoring 15 points and pulling down 14 rebounds; Boyd had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Justin Hicks contributed with eight points, seven assists, and six rebounds.
• Nathaniel Kingsley and Bailey Plante scored 16 points each as Rutland rolled over Brattleboro, 66-53, on Jan. 19. Eli Lombardi and Tanner Freeman kept the Colonels in the game by scoring 14 and 12 points, respectively.
On Jan. 22 at the BUHS gym, the Colonels were clobbered by Burr & Burton, 78-44, Joey Shehadi torched Brattleboro for 33 points. Kassidi Ramirez and Lombardi led the Colonels with nine points each. At 4-8, the Colonels have yet to beat a Division I opponent this season.
• It was another rough week for Bellows Falls, which lost 40-33 to Green Mountain on Jan. 21 and three nights later got blown out by Fall Mountain, 70-42. The pair of home losses dropped the Terriers’ record to 1-13.
• Leland & Gray lost at Windsor, 51-44, on Jan. 23 to even their record to 5-5.
• The sports adage that defense wins games was illustrated by Brattleboro’s 46-24 victory against Fair Haven on Jan. 17. The Colonels shut down the Slaters’ top scorer and took a 24-11 halftime lead as a result.
Everyone got into the act for the Colonels. Taylor Bird, the game’s top scorer with 14 points, alternated with Morgan Derosia to play shutdown defense. Abbie Lesure had eight points, six rebounds, six assists, and six steals. Gabrielle Carpenter had nine points and nine rebounds, and Maddy Derosia scored seven points and had three steals.
Brattleboro turned in another strong defensive effort on the road against Monument Mountain, but nine-for-10 free-throw shooting in the final quarter gave the home squad a 41-34 win. The Colonels trailed 24-11 at the half but rallied back to within four points before falling short. Devin Millerick was top scorer with nine points.
The Colonels got back in the win column with a 50-47 victory over Burr & Burton on Jan. 22 in Manchester. Morgan Derosia had the hot hand with 16 points as Brattleboro handed the Bulldogs their second loss of the season. Now 7-5, the Colonels are a game away from clinching a playoff spot.
• Murphy Hicks scored 12 points and pulled down 15 rebounds as Bellows Falls beat Arlington, 54-46, on Jan. 19 at Holland Gymnasium. Hannah Kelly had a team-high 17 points; Chelsea Wilder finished with 11 points, nine steals; and Keri Tecino and Molly Dufault (14 rebounds) scored seven points each.
• Playing the winless Black River has been a pick-me-up for struggling Marble Valley League teams. It was Twin Valley’s turn on Jan. 19 to take the pause that refreshes as they went to Ludlow and left with a 60-25 win.
The Wildcats pulled down a season-high 61 rebounds and had 21 steals. Kirra Courchesne led the way with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and five steals. Teammates Teya Johnson and Karlee Walkowiak each finished with eight points. Johnson added nine rebounds and five steals.
The Wildcats improved to 7-7 with a 42-33 home win over Bellows Falls on Jan. 21. Colton Butler got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of her 10 points in the final minutes. Christina Moore pulled down 12 rebounds as Twin Valley gradually pulled away from BF in the second half. Chelsea Wilder led the 5-5 Terriers with 15 points.
• The Brattleboro girls may be struggling on the ice, but there is always one game of the year where they score big.
Jan. 21 was the Colonels’ annual “Pink on the Rink” game, where the team dons pink jerseys and all game proceeds go toward the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Breast Care Clinic.
The team raised $588, which will go toward gas cards to help those in need travel to their chemotherapy sessions.
As for the game itself, the Colonels lost to U-32, 7-0.
On Jan. 24, Mount Mansfield defeated the Colonels, 6-3. Molly Burke had four goals and two assists for the Cougars and became the school’s all-time-assists leader. She also broke the 100-point mark for season with her performance.
Sarah Laporte, Emily Martyn, and Emma Rueter scored goals for Brattleboro. Keagan Jameson made 35 saves in goal as the Colonels lost their fifth game in a row to fall to 2-10.
• The Brattleboro boys had two tough road losses last week: They came up short, 6-2, in Waterbury against Harwood on Jan. 21; three days later they were shut out by Stowe, 4-0.
Against Stowe, Nick Peruse made 28 saves in net for Brattleboro. It was the third straight loss and the fifth loss in six games for the Colonels, now 5-8.