The Leland & Gray basketball program played its second annual Hoops for Hope games last week against Twin Valley.
The event was a fundraiser for the Alexis June “Lexy” Giallella Scholarship Fund. Giallella, a student at Leland & Gray, died of cancer on Nov. 12, 2013, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. The Brookline teen was a month shy of her 16th birthday.
Players and coaches in both the girls’ and boys’ games wore the Hoops for Hope T-shirts during warmups, and all proceeds from donations, T-shirt sales, and various raffles during the game — $2,000 in all — went toward the scholarship fund.
It was fitting that Twin Valley was the opponent for the Rebels in both games. Hosting their longtime rivals assured a full house both nights, and the fans who came out were rewarded with great basketball as Twin Valley won the boys’ game, 52-41, on Jan. 28, while Leland & Gray won the girls’ game, 41-26, on Jan. 30,
• In the boys’ contest, Twin Valley was playing its first game since having its 12-game win streak snapped by Otter Valley.
“The competitor in you wants to win them all,” said Twin Valley boys’ coach Chris Brown. He called the loss to Otter Valley “humbling, but it got us refocused.”
The Wildcats made sure they wouldn’t have two losses in a row, but Walling said the Rebels “made us work for the win.”
Twin Valley started the game with a 10-0 run in the first six minutes and had a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Rebels responded with a 10-2 run in the first four minutes of the second quarter to tie the game.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the first half as Twin Valley ended up taking a 23-21 lead at intermission. Corey Nystrom had the hot hand for the Rebels, scoring 13 of his game-high 15 points — including two 3-pointers — in the first 16 minutes.
The Wildcats then took over the game in the second half. With the game tied 29-29 with 4:45 left in the third, the Wildcats scored three baskets in less than a minute to take the lead for good. It was 41-33 Wildcats at the end of the third, and the Rebels could not mount another comeback.
“It all came down to their strength,” said Rebels coach Andy Nystrom. “[Twin Valley] manhandled us inside. They didn’t take an outside shot in the second half, and with the way they were playing they didn’t need to.
Skyler Boyd led the 13-1 Wildcats with 14 points and 10 rebounds, with a pair of 3s in the first quarter and 8 points in the third. Kyle Murdock and DJ Lazelle added 13 and 9 points, respectively.
Jake Topping and Nick Morrow chipped in eight apiece for the 6-7 Rebels.
• Defense was the key to the Rebel girls’ win over Twin Valley. Leland & Gray took a 5-2 lead after one quarter, as neither team could get near the basket without being harassed by defenders. The teams traded baskets in the second quarter, but the Rebels still had a three-point lead, 13-10, at the half.
The game soon turned at the start of the third quarter as Holly Landon got a basket and sank two free throws and Jordan Gouger nailed a 3-pointer to extend the Rebels’ lead 20-13 with 6:15 left. Twin Valley never got closer.
“We talked at halftime about the need to come out fast and strong at the start of the second half,” said Rebels coach Terry Merrow. “We got a great team effort tonight. Everybody, not just the big names, contributed.”
Landon finished with 15 to lead the Rebels. Gouger added 10 points to go with her four steals and four assists, and Haley Buffum had seven points, 11 rebounds, and six blocked shots. With 12 points, Kiera Courchesne was the Wildcats’ top scorer.
“We couldn’t get the big rebound or hit the big shot in the second half,” said Wildcats coach Buddy Hayford. “[The Rebels] made it difficult to get good looks at the basket. And we were 8-for-20 from the free throw line. We left a lot of points there.”
These two teams may meet again in the first round of the Division III playoffs. Merrow said he was proud of his team sweeping the season series with Twin Valley. “That’s something that’s very rare,” he said.
• Brattleboro took a big lead early and made it stand up for a 56-52 win over Mount Anthony at the BUHS gym on Jan. 28.
Strong zone defense and 3-pointers by Lynden Bunker, Kassidi Ramirez, and Dylan DeJordy helped the Colonels take a 17-4 lead in the first 6:30 of the game. But the Patriots started getting second- and third-chance shots and whittled the lead down to 31-22 by halftime.
MAU chipped away in the second half to cut the Brattleboro lead to three in the final seconds. The Colonels hung on and improved their record to 5-8.
Tanner Freeman scored 13 points and had six assists to lead Brattleboro. DeJordy and Josh Hanson scored 12 each, while Ramirez finished with eight. MAU’s Tyler Champagne led all scorers with 18.
• Proctor rallied a 22-14 deficit midway through the second quarter to beat Leland & Gray, 52-42, on Jan. 26. Turnovers and missed free throws opened the door for the Phantoms, and a lack of cohesion on offense by the Rebels once Proctor got the lead led to the loss.
Josh Donna had 11 points off the bench for the Rebels, and Corey Nystrom added 8 points.
• Twin Valley pounded Poultney, 36-15, on Jan, 28 in Jacksonville. Colton Butler (15 points, six steals) and Christina Moore (4 points, 10 rebounds) led the Wildcats, while Julia Simonds had a team-high 7 points for the 2-10 Blue Devils.
• Arlington beat Leland & Gray, 61-58, in Townshend on Jan. 27, but the Eagles needed overtime to do it. Molly Elwell led the Eagles with 24 points, including six 3-pointers, while Brooke Hawley added 15 points. Holly Landon led the Rebels with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Rachel Borgensen had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Haley Buffum had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
• Bellows Falls fell to Fall Mountain, 55-44, on Jan. 29 at Holland Gymnasium. Chelsea Wilder led BF with 21 points.
• Travis Benson scored with 1:47 left in overtime as Mount Mansfield beat the Brattleboro boys, 4-3, in Jericho on Jan. 28.
David Rosales had four assists for the winners, and Keagan McKay, Jackson Wright, and Justin Pond netted one goal apiece.
Braxton Lynn had a goal and an assist for the 5-9 Colonels in the team’s fourth straight loss. Declan Lonergan and Evan Perkins also scored for Brattleboro, and Nick Perusse made 22 saves in goal.
• The Brattleboro girls started the week with a 5-2 loss to U-32 in Montpelier on Jan. 26. The Raiders scored three goals in the final period to break a 2-2 tie. Freshman Axis Baiseley scored both Colonel goals.
Two nights later, the girls broke a six-game losing streak with a 10-9 win over Stowe.
• Declan King came in fourth in 17:20, and Isabella Thurber wound up fifth to lead the Brattleboro Union High School boys’ and girls cross-country ski teams during a recent 5.5K classical meet at the Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry.
BUHS scored 41 points and took third in the boys’ team competition. King’s time was 17 minutes, 20 seconds. Rounding out the top five for Brattleboro were teammates Jonah Koch (8th), Spencer Loggia (14th), Isaac Freitas-Eagan (15th), and Tyler Clement (16th).
Thurber covered the course in 22:23. Catey Yost (11th) and Evy Williams (19th) also competed for the Brattleboro girls.
Mount Anthony swept both the boys’ and girls’ meets.
Colonels, Patriots staying put in Division I
• In November, the Vermont Interscholastic Football League (VIFL) unveiled a plan that divided the 33 schools that play football in Vermont into three divisions of 11 teams each. The most controversial part of the plan was dropping Division I teams Brattleboro and Mount Anthony into Division II.
Neither school fared well in the formula the VIFL used to rank the schools, which took into account total male enrollment, the number of boys going out for football, and the win-loss record over the previous four seasons.
However, when it came time in December for the Vermont Principals Association’s Activity Standards Committee sign-off on the plan, Brattleboro and Mount Anthony petitioned to remain in Division II, while BFA-Fairfax petitioned to stay in Division III rather than move up to Division II.
Those three teams will stay put. The rest of the VIFL original realignment plan remains, with three-time defending Division II champion Rice moving up to Division I and Burlington and Mount Mansfield dropping from Division I to Division II.
Rice, which wanted to stay in Division II, lost its first appeal in December. A second appeal was denied by the VPA last month.
So, for the 2015 and 2016 football seasons, Division II goes from 13 to 12 teams, Division II goes from eight to nine teams, and Division III remains at 12 teams.