This is the point of the basketball season where teams find out whether they have what it takes to make a playoff run.
Leland & Gray girls’ basketball coach Terry Merrow thinks his young team is starting to figure out what needs to be done to make it out of the first round.
The Rebels’ 7-6 record puts them squarely in the middle of the pack in Division III, but they are undefeated in the Marble Valley League’s C Division with a 5-0 record, and won their fourth game in a row last Saturday with a 46-28 home win over Green Mountain.
Both teams got off to a slow start, but it was Leland & Gray that ended up with a 16-11 lead at the half.
Merrow said he told his team that it needed to pick up its intensity on defense. “Our offense is predicated on strong defense,” he said.
The Rebels started off the third quarter with a zone press defense that forced a lot of turnovers and sparked a 14-2 run in the first four minutes of the quarter. By the end of third, the Rebels were up, 38-16, and the game was effectively over.
“That surprised me, because normally we’re pretty good against the press,” said Green Mountain coach Terry Ferrell, who only has 11 players on the roster and has to field a lineup with two eighth-graders and eight freshmen. “We were too tentative on offense.”
Merrow singled out junior forwards Caroline Tietz and Rachel Borgesen for praise; they led all scorers with 13 and 11 points, respectively, “Lately, Caroline’s been really good in the post, and that is helping our offense. And Rachel is playing phenomenal defense.”
Jesse Stockwell and Hannah Buffum each scored eight points for the Rebels, who also had a 47-24 rebounding advantage against the younger and smaller Chieftains. Kassidy Cummings and Anna Lamson each had five points to lead the 6-7 Chieftains.
Merrow says the Rebels have played a tougher schedule, with three of their six losses coming against larger New Hampshire schools and two others coming against Division IV powers West Rutland and Proctor.
“Nobody likes to lose, but if we want to have a playoff run that’s more than ‘one-and-done,’ we need to test ourselves against good teams,” he said. “That’s how we get better.”
• Last week, both the Bellows Falls and Brattleboro teams participated in games that raised money as well as awareness in the ongoing fight against cancer.
BF hosted the Springfield Cosmos in its Coaches vs. Cancer benefit for the American Cancer Society on Jan. 19, but a late rally by Springfield helped the Cosmos pull out a 39-34 win over the Terriers.
The Terriers led 23-13 at the half, but Springfield opened the second half with a 10-0 burst to tie the game. Brooke Willey and Elizabeth MacKenzie keyed Springfield’s full-court press, and scored all of the points during the Cosmos’ surge.
The teams traded baskets after that until the Cosmos closed out the game with a 9-2 run to win it. A bad night at the free throw line also doomed the Terriers, as they shot 2-for-16.
BF’s Abbe Cravinho led all scorers with 21 points. Willey and MacKenzie each finished with 11 points to lead the Cosmos.
• Brattleboro picked up its third win of the season as Morgan Derosia had 14 points, three rebounds, and three assists to lead the Colonels to a 57-39 victory over Hartford in the second annual Cancer Awareness Game at the BUHS gym on Saturday.
The Colonels put together their best quarter of the season when they jumped out to a 15-3 lead. Devin Millerick and Shenise Taliaferro scored five and four points, respectively, in the first quarter.
Brattleboro maintained the momentum, getting six second-quarter points from Gabby Carpenter and five more from Derosia for a 29-19 lead at the half.
Carpenter finished with eight points and six rebounds, while Millerick had eight rebounds and four steals; she and Taliaferro added six points each. Hailey Derosia provided four points, six rebounds and nine steals, as 10 Colonels scored in the game.
• Twin Valley got points from all of its players on Jan. 20 in a 53-21 road win over Poultney. Kirra Courchesne led the Wildcats with 12 points, while Teya Johnson chipped in 10 and Taylor Courshesne scored eight.
Against Bellows Falls last Saturday, the Wildcats eked out a 30-28 home win. Kirra Courchesne finished with five points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks for the Wildcats.
Hannah Kelly (16 rebounds) and Murphy Hicks (14 rebounds) ended up with nine and six points, respectively, for the Terriers. Twin Valley finished the week at 7-6, while BF fell to 3-8.
• Brattleboro’s Tony Martinez scored with three seconds left in overtime to give the Colonels a 58-57 road victory over the Hartford Hurricanes on Jan. 19.
A basket from Dylan DeJordy gave the Colonels the lead with eight seconds left in regulation, but a buzzer beater from Hartford forced overtime. In OT, Brattleboro got a basket from Chayse Cunniff, a couple of free throws from DeJordy and the game-winner from Martinez.
Eli Lombardi and DeJordy led the Colonels with 17 and 16 points, respectively, and Josh Hanson added eight points.
Last Friday night in Manchester, Lombardi muscled his way to scoring 22 points as the Colonels overpowered Burr & Burton, 55-43.
DeJordy added 12 points as Brattleboro improved to 7-6. Griffin Stalcup and Carter Vickers each scored 12 for the Bulldogs and Cam Bunker added 10 for the 9-5 Bulldogs.
• Justin Hicks and Skyler Boyd each scored 13 points to lead Twin Valley to a 63-37 road win over West Rutland on Jan. 18. Brett Swanson added 11 points for the 8-5 Wildcats. Jacob Dow had a team-high 12 points for the Golden Horde.
Swanson then went off for 28 points as Twin Valley rolled to a 58-29 rout of Bellows Falls at home on Friday. Shane Clark and Anthony Mueller each scored nine points to lead the 5-7 Terriers. Twin Valley is 9-5 and sits in sixth place in Division III.
• Leland & Gray may be starting to right the ship. After nine losses in their last 10 games, the Rebels had a pair of home wins last week. On Jan. 19, they beat Springfield, 54-33. Two nights later, they ripped Poultney, 75-49, to improve to 4-9 on the season.
• Brattleboro recently had a meet at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripon, with the varsity skiers competing in classic style on a 5K course.
The Brattleboro boys came in fifth, while the girls finished seventh. The Middlebury boys and Champlain Valley girls were the respective team winners.
Isaac Freitas-Eagan was seventh in 21 minutes, 23 seconds to lead the Colonel boys, followed by Jonah Koch (31st), Spencer Loggia (32nd), Declan King (35th), and Dan Burdo (38th).
Liz Morse led the Brattleboro girls. She was 10th in 28:07, followed by Isabella Thurber (16th), Sarah Gallagher (49th), Elery Loggia (58th), and Evy Williams (62nd).
Harris Hill Ski Jump coming soon
• The nation’s best young ski jumpers are set to fly off New England’s only Olympic-size hill on Feb. 20 and 21 at the annual Harris Hill Ski Jump in Brattleboro.
The nearly century-old competition will feature athletes from the United States, Canada and Europe who will compete on a 90-meter hill that’s one of just six of its size in the country. Since its start in 1922, the annual event attracts several thousand spectators who watch jumpers soar up to 300 feet at speeds up to 60 mph.
This year’s competition — to feature the annual Pepsi Challenge and Fred Harris Memorial Tournament — is expected to be a warm-up event for dozens of athletes on their way to the 2016 Junior Nationals on Feb. 24-27 in Salisbury, Conn.
Gates will open Feb. 20 and 21 at 10 a.m., with trial rounds at 11 a.m., opening ceremonies at noon and competition at 12:45 p.m. The family event offers food and beverage vendors, a bonfire, music, tailgating and appearances by mascot Jumper the Cow.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and younger and can be purchased at the gate (cash or local check only) or online at www.brownpapertickets.com.
Advance discount admission of $15 for adults and $12 for students ages 6 to 12 is available starting Feb. 9 at the following Brattleboro locations: Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Galanes VT Shop, Burrows Specialized Sports, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Avenue Grocery, Grafton Village Cheese, and Zephyr Design. More information at www.harrishillskijump.com.