If you have been coaching as long as Twin Valley’s Buddy Hayford, you learn that keeping an even emotional keel is essential, because the inherent unpredictability of high schoolers assures that the highs and lows will come in equal measure.
Last week, Hayford had the high of picking up his 400th career win as a girls’ varsity basketball coach, and the low with watching a shorthanded team with players out of their respective comfort zones get clobbered by West Rutland, the best team in their division.
The Wildcats’ week started with Olivia Valerio scoring 12 points to lead the Proctor Phantoms to a 37-18 home win over Twin Valley on Dec. 14. Proctor forced 24 turnovers by Twin Valley. Sophomore Tayler Courchesne led the Wildcats with nine points, while Senior Kirra Courchesne finished with five points, seven rebounds, and four blocks.
The Wildcats bounced back with a 46-28 road win over Arlington on Dec. 17. It was the 400th victory for Hayford, who has coached the girls’ teams at Wilmington High School and Twin Valley for 28 years.
The Courchesnes led the way as Tayler scored a career-high 22 points, including 13 in the opening quarter, while Kirra had eight points and 8 rebounds. Kendell Howe contributed seven points and four rebounds.
However, against undefeated West Rutland last Saturday, everything fell apart in a 61-35 home loss. Hayford said he knew it was going to be a bad day when his starting point guard, junior Sammy Morse, was unable to start due to a stomach bug. That left Tayler Courchesne to run the offense.
“She was way out of her comfort zone,” said Hayford. “We can play good basketball when everyone is healthy, but when kids have to play out of position, and do it against the best team we’ll see all year, it’s going to be a long afternoon.”
And it was. West Rutland forced 22 turnovers as their defense flustered the Wildcats, who missed a half-dozen easy shots in the first quarter. The Golden Horde took a 14-4 lead after one quarter and led 26-15 at the half before coming out strong to start the second half to put the Wildcats away.
The Horde also had a phenomenal day at the free throw line, converting 17 of their 20 chances. By comparison, Twin Valley did not get to the line in the first half, and only had three chances in the second half.
Brooke Raiche led the undefeated Horde with 17 points, including a 9-for-10 performance at the free throw line. Katie Callahan chipped in 15 points. Teya Johnson hit three three-pointers and finished with 11 points. Tayler Courchesne had 10 points and Brianna Rafus and Kirra Courchesne added six each.
“The good news is that we’re not going to play Proctor or West Rutland again this season,” said Hayford.
• Bellows Falls started off its week with a 46-13 win over Long Trail at Holland Gymnasium on Dec. 14.
Freshmen Molly Kelly and Emma Lawrence scored 10 and nine points, respectively, as the Terriers played strong defense and controlled the boards. Murphy Hicks pulled down 14 rebounds, while Keri Ticino and Abbe Cravinho each had six steals.
Two nights later at home against Proctor, the Terriers lost, 47-27. It was a night where very little went right for BF. They turned the ball over 36 times, as Proctor’s pressure defense kept the Terriers from establishing any sort of rhythm on offense.
“We’d do something positive, then we shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t win games playing like that,” BF coach Joe Goodhue said.
For the second time in three games, Hicks and Hannah Kelly got into foul trouble early, which took two big weapons out of the mix for BF. Proctor’s Abby McKearin was the beneficiary, as she scored 11 points in the second quarter and gave the Phantoms a 27-13 lead at the half.
BF played better in the third period and got as close as eight before a flurry of turnovers doomed the Terriers’ comeback. McKearin finished with 25 points. Kelly had 12 points and nine rebounds to lead BF.
• Kayla Matt’s jump shot with 1.5 seconds left in regulation gave St. Johnsbury a dramatic 43-42 win over Brattleboro at the BUHS gym on Dec. 15. Gabby Carpenter led the Colonels with 15 points, while Hailey Derosia added 12.
At Burlington last Saturday, the Colonels fell to the Seahorses, 45-38. Norah Mitchell had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Seahorses, while Katie Hartnett and Makayla King each added nine points. Devin Millerick led the 1-3 Colonels with 13 points and Kelsey McAuliffe had 10.
• Brattleboro traveled to Burlington last Saturday, and watched a 19-point lead vanish in the fourth quarter as the undefeated Seahorses rallied to an improbable 61-54 win over the Colonels.
Burlington trailed by more than 20 during the second half, but put it together in the final eight minutes and outscored the Colonels, 28-2.
Kevin Garrison scored 12 of his team-high 18 points during Burlington’s late run. Kujtim Hashani added 14 points and Josh Hale finished with 13, including the 1,000th point of his career on the game’s first basket for 5-0 Burlington.
Dylan DeJordy scored 20 points for the 1-2 Colonels, including six three-pointers. Eli Lombardi added 11 points and Josh Hanson had 10.
• Bellows Falls led wire-to-wire in a 54-41 win over Long Trail at Holland Gymnasium on Dec. 14. The Terriers led 15-6 after one quarter and 34-16 at the half before cooling down a bit in the second half. Cam Joy and Shane Clark each scored 12 for the Terriers, while Zack Chapin added 10, including two three-pointers.
At Black River on Dec. 17, the Presidents needed overtime to beat BF, 69-67. The Terriers trailed by 11 at the half, but rallied to a 55-55 tie at the end of regulation.
Clark led the Terriers with 15 points, while Zach Streeter added 13. Black River’s Earle Brown lit up the Terriers for 30 points, while Drew Schoenberger added 17 to give the Presidents their first home win of the young season.
• Twin Valley played in the Bob Abrahamson Tip-Off Classic in Proctor last week. In the first round game on Dec. 17, the Phantoms pulled out a 47-45 win over the Wildcats.
The game came down to the final minute. Proctor’s Nick Swaine and Twin Valley’s DJ Lazelle traded three-pointers, then Swaine tried to win it with another three as time was running out. He missed, Gannon McKearin got the rebound, and passed it back to Swaine who followed up his miss to lay in the winning hoop.
Lazelle finished with 17 points to lead the Wildcats. McKearnin had 17 for the Phantoms, while Swaine finished with seven.
In the consolation game the following night, Twin Valley beat Otter Valley, 42-33. Lazelle again was the top scorer with 21 points and Brett Swanson had eight points for the 2-3 Wildcats. Twin Valley’s defense held the Otters’ top scorer, Derek Aines, to just seven points.
• Leland & Gray doesn’t shy away from taking on larger schools. Coach Andy Nystrom believes even if his Division III team has to take its lumps against a strong team from a big school, it will still pay off in the long run when the Rebels play their divisional foes.
So when the Rebels played host to Hartford last Saturday, a win was definitely not in the cards. The Hurricanes used a balanced attack, with eight players scoring at least six points, to blow away the Rebels, 67-24.
Hartford led 20-6 after one quarter and 38-10 at the half. Austin Gaudette led the Hurricanes with 12 points.
• Brianna Doty and Courtney Amell each had two goals as Northfield shut out visiting Brattleboro, 6-0, on Dec. 16
Lindsey Bergeron and Catherine Miles also scored for the undefeated Marauders (4-0) as goaltender Analiese Morvan earned the shutout with 10 saves. Keagan Jameson stopped 20 shots for the Colonels.
Brattleboro bounced back from that loss with an 11-1 trouncing of North Country last Saturday in Newport. It was the first win of the season for the 1-4 Colonels.