Never underestimate the power of momentum when it comes to playoff basketball.
After an eight-game losing streak at the start of the regular season, the Brattleboro Colonels girls’ basketball team won six of their last eight games. In the process, the Colonels — particularly the underclasswomen — started to play with more confidence and coalesced as a team.
And that roll has continued in the Division I playoffs.
The Colonels became the first No. 14 seed to advance to the semifinals since Vermont adopted the current basketball playoff format in 1974 by upsetting the third-seeded Essex Hornets, 45-43, in overtime in a first-round game on Feb. 23, and then knocking off the No. 6 St. Johnsbury Hilltoppers, 50-46, in a quarterfinal on Feb. 26.
The odds were long for Brattleboro to knock off a higher seed on the road, let alone do it twice. Essex made it to the finals last season. However, the Colonels had nothing to lose as they traveled to Essex to face the Hornets as they defied the odds with their overtime upset.
Junior point guard Devin Millerick led the Colonels with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Fellow junior Shenise Taliaferro added nine points, 12 rebounds, and four blocked shots. Gabby Carpenter pulled down 12 rebounds and blocked three shots to go with her seven points, and freshman Hailey Derosia had seven points, six rebounds, and three blocks.
Brattleboro forced overtime by holding the Hornets to just two field goals and three free throws in the fourth quarter. The Colonels then outscored Essex, 11-9, in OT. Kylie Acker led the 14-7 Hornets with 12 points.
The Colonels had little time to savor the upset as they had to take another long bus ride, this time to St. Johnsbury, last Friday. Brattleboro knew what expect, having already played St. Johnsbury twice this season — a 43-42 loss at the BUHS gym on Dec. 15 and a 49-39 loss in St. Johnsbury on Jan. 18.
Brattleboro played in a 2-3 zone defense and forced numerous turnovers that were quickly converted into fast-break baskets. Still, the Hilltoppers took a 19-13 lead after one quarter as Sadie Stetson hit a pair of three-pointers, and Neva Bostic and Kayla Matte also connected on threes.
Millerick kept Brattleboro in the game in the first, fearlessly driving to the hoop against the bigger Hilltopper defenders. She scored 11 points, including a three-pointer, in that first period.
The Hilltoppers kept Millerick under control in the second quarter, but it was Taliaferro and Derosia’s turn to shine. Taliaferro scored four points and Derosia converted a three-point play as Brattleboro took a 22-21 lead with three minutes left in the first half. A Bostic three and two free throws by Gunnhildur Atladottir helped St. Johnsbury take a 26-23 lead at the half.
That was the last time the Hilltoppers would lead in the game, as Millerick and Derosia put on a show in the third quarter.
The Colonels took control of the game with a 13-2 run that saw the Colonel duo provide all the scoring as Brattleboro led 38-28 midway through the third. Three free throws by Atladottir and a Stetson hoop cut the lead to 38-33, but Derosia drilled a three and Kelsea McAuliffe drove the lane for another basket to make it an 11-point lead. 43-33, heading into the fourth.
All Brattleboro needed to do was hang on in the fourth, and they did just that, thanks to five points and some key rebounds from Carpenter.
Millerick finished with 21 points, while Derosia had 15. Stetson led the Hilltoppers with 12 points, while Atladottir (9-for-10 from the free throw line) and Bostic (three three-pointers) each added 11.
The win sent the 10-12 Colonels to Burlington to UVM’s Patrick Gymnasium for a Division I semifinal with the No. 10 BFA-St.Albans Comets (11-11) on March 1. The Colonels lost, 52-26; we’ll have a complete report in next week’s edition.
• The No. 7 Leland & Gray Rebels won a low-scoring game against No. 10 Northfield, 29-20, in a first-round Division III playoff game in Townshend on Feb. 23.
Rachel Borgesen scored nine points and Hannah Buffam added seven. Kate Lafaille was Northfield’s high scorer with eight points.
The win gave the Rebels a quarterfinal date on the road against the second-seeded Thetford Panthers last Friday, which Thetford won, 38-20.
It was a game that had more turnovers than points scored, as Thetford gave the ball away 38 times, while Leland & Gray had 40 turnovers. The Rebels were held to just six points in the first half, as Thetford’s zone press defense kept Leland & Gray from establishing any rhythm on offense.
Borgesen, Buffum, and Madison Russ scored four points each for the Rebels, who finished the season with a 12-10 record and will lose only senior co-captain Jordan Gouger to graduation. Thetford advanced to the Division III semifinals for the fifth straight year.
• No 11 Oxbow ended sixth-seeded Twin Valley’s season with a 45-32 win in a Division III first-round game on Feb. 23 in Whitingham.
Kayleigh Trojanowski and Sara Walker scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Olympians as Oxbow led by nine at halftime. Oxbow did a good job keeping Twin Valley from getting second chance shots, holding the Wildcats to just five offensive rebounds.
Tayler Courchesne had 14 points, six rebounds, and three steals as Twin Valley finished with a 12-9 record. Kirra Courchesne finished with eight points, six rebounds, two steals, and four blocked shots. Brianna Rafus chipped in with five points and six rebounds.
Kirra Courchesne, Maya Holschuh, Teya Johnson, and Rafus are the graduating seniors on the team.
• The 16th-seeded Bellows Falls varsity girls basketball team lost to the top-ranked U-32 Raiders, 62-30, in a Division II first-round game on Feb. 25 in East Montpelier.
The 20-1 Raiders were led by Jessica Mugford, who scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds and came up with eight steals. Krista Towne had 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Jayden Hudson and Liz Aitchison added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Hannah Kelly was the Terriers’ top scorer with 10 points to pace the Terriers. Molly Kelly and Michelle Marchica added six points each. BF finished the season with a 7-14 record and will only lose one player, reserve forward Kennedy Austin, to graduation.
BUHS boys win MVL classic relay
• The Brattleboro boys’ Nordic skiing team were winners in the Marble Valley League’s classic relay, held on a 1-kilometer loop of man-made snow at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden last week.
Declan King had the Colonels in third after the first leg of the relay. Jonah Koch then sped through the second leg, opening up an 18 second lead. Spencer Loggia maintained that lead on the third leg and anchorman Issac Frietas-Eagan did the rest as the Colonels scorched the course in 17 minutes, 11 seconds.
That was 18 seconds faster than the second place team, Burr & Burton, and 53 seconds faster than third-place finisher Woodstock.
The Colonel girls relay team of Isabella Thurber, Evy Williams, Sarah Gallagher, and Liz Morse finished fourth, behind Woodstock, Mount Anthony, and Burr & Burton.
MVL All-Stars announced
• The Marble Valley League announced their varsity basketball All-Stars for the 2015-16 season.
Two local coaches received Coach of the Year honors in the C Division— Twin Valley boys’ coach Chris Brown and Leland & Gray girls’ coach Terry Merrow.
Brattleboro had five players earn A Division honors, as Dylan DeJordy and Gabby Carpenter were named to their respective first teams, while Josh Hanson, Devin Millerick and Morgan Derosia all received honorable mentions.
Four area players made the C Division’s First Team on the boys side — Twin Valley’s DJ Lazelle and Kyle Murdock, Leland & Gray’s Nick Morrow, and Shane Clark of Bellows Falls. Earning honorable mention were Twin Valley’s Brett Swanson, Skyler Boyd and Justin Hicks, and Cam Joy and Zack Streeter of Bellows Falls.
Twin Valley’s Kirra and Tayler Courchesne, Leland & Gray’s Rachel Borgesen, and Hannah Kelly of Bellows Falls were all named the the C Division First Team on the girls’ side. Earning honorable mention were Leland & Gray’s Jessie Stockwell, Caroline Tietz and Hannah Buffum; Twin Valley’s Teya Johnson; and Murphy Hicks and Keri Ticino of Bellows Falls.
Vermont Open returns to Stratton
The Vermont Open returns to Stratton Mountain on March 10-13 for three days of live music and snowboard competitions.
Now the only open snowboarding competition in Vermont, the snowboard and music festival welcomes athletes of all ages to vie for the top spot on the podium in a variety of competitions – rail jam, slopestyle, retro pipe and banked slalom.
This lighthearted but competitive event is open to riders in the categories of junior (12 and under), amateur, pro, and “washed up.” The prize purse is $20,000. To register for the Vermont Open, visit www.vermontopen.com.
A celebration of the beginning of the sport and its progression, the Vermont Open presents a chance for aspiring riders to compete in the same arena as current and past pros.
The Open, now in its fourth year, has hosted hundreds of athletes – including Olympian Ross Powers and his teenage daughter, Victoria – who both earned a spot on the Open podium last year — as well as U.S. Open champion Andy Coughlin, snowboarding icons Scott Palmer and Seth Neary, and Mike and Steve Hayes, founders of Hayes Brothers Snowboards.
Live music will entertain each night of the Open as part of the Winter Concert Series at the newly revived Grizzly’s Bar and Restaurant. For the full event and activity lineup, visit www.stratton.com.