There will be a lot more drama as the Vermont high school basketball playoffs conclude this week for the boys and begin for the girls. But you’ll be hard pressed to come up with anything that can top what transpired in the BUHS gym on March 1.
Brattleboro, the No. 6 seed in the Division I boys’ tourney, was host to the No. 11 Spaulding Crimson Tide for a first-round game. The two teams played a wild and emotional 32 minutes of basketball that ultimately saw the Colonels come out on top, 43-42, on night where there was blood on the floor, 10 lead changes, improbable plays, and a gritty fourth-quarter comeback by the Colonels.
With the referees taking a generally hands-off approach to officiating the game, both teams took advantage and played defense to the physical limits of the rule book.
“Basketball is a contact sport,” said Colonels coach Jason Coplan. “This was a rougher game than we’ve seen all year, but we handled it well.”
In the first quarter, Crimson Tide was an apt description of the blood that was streaming down the face of Spaulding’s Dominick LaCasse after he was hit in the head just above his left eye by a stray elbow and crumpled to the floor.
The game was stopped for about 10 minutes while LaCasse was treated and the blood was cleaned off the floor. LaCasse scored 6 of his team’s 12 points in the first quarter, but he did not return after the injury.
The Colonels kept pace in the first 8 minutes, which ended in a 12-12 tie. Calvin LaFland and Eli Lombardi both hit three-pointers. Brattleboro got a little breathing room by outscoring the Tide, 10-5, in the second quarter for a 22-17 lead, but Spaulding came back and cut the Colonels’ lead to 28-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
Spaulding looked like they were about to pull off an upset as Dylan D’Agostino and Kolby MacCauley were hitting their shots, while the Colonels were getting thwarted by Tide shotblocker Hamisi Wabuti.
Brattleboro trailed 38-30 with 3:10 to play. Instead of folding, the Colonels came off the ropes swinging. LaFland and Tanner Bell each sank a free throw, Bell added a lay-up, Lombardi made both his free throws, and Fulton-Black completed the comeback with a three-pointer from the left wing to make in 39-38 with 1:38 to play.
The BUHS student section was in high delirium at that point, but the final 98 seconds was even more dramatic. MacCauley scored inside to put the Tide back on top, but Lombardi responded with an inside bucket of his own.
Again, MacCauley scored inside and the Tide had a 42-41 lead with 25 seconds in regulation.
And again, the Colonels responded. Fulton-Black was fouled with 7.7 seconds left. He calmly sank both his free throws to put Brattleboro back in front. Spaulding had one last chance to score, but Lombardi knocked away the inbound pass as the clock showed zeros and the Colonel fans roared.
“That was some clutch free throw shooting from Ian at the end,” said a drained, but relieved, Coplan after the game. “We’ve had a couple of other games like this, but I am really proud of my kids that they saw this one through and didn’t give up. But it wasn’t just Ian or Eli, we got help from other players too, and we’re going need that going forward.”
Lombardi finished with 16 points. Fulton-Black and LaFland added 9 and 8 points, respectively. While Bell and Leif Bigelow had just 3 points each, and Tony Martinez and Kyle Derosia had 2 points each, all four made key contributions along the way to victory.
After this physically and emotionally exhausting win, the reward for the Colonels was a three-hour bus ride to Burlington to play the third-seeded Seahorses in the quarterfinals on March 3. Brattleboro lost, 61-52, in another game that pushed the Colonels to the limit.
As in the Spaulding game, the Colonels fell behind in the first half by eight points and rallied back to cut the Burlington lead to 22-20 at the half.
Burlington’s star player, Kevin Garrison, was held to 5 points in the first half. But he could not be contained in the second half as he scored 25 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter.
But Brattleboro was in control of the game in the second half until midway through the final quarter, when Garrison was fouled going up for a dunk. An intentional foul was called, turning that dunk into a three-point play. Burlington also got the ball, and the Seahorses started a run that gave them a 49-42 lead with 3:12 to play. The Colonels could not recover.
Lombardi and Fulton-Black did all they could, with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists for Lombardi and 19 points and 7 assists for Fulton-Black. While the ending in Burlington was disappointing, it doesn’t diminish the greatness of the Spaulding game and the season that the Colonels had.
• While the Colonels’ season ended, the third-seeded Twin Valley Wildcats are very much alive and headed to the Barre Auditorium for a Division III semifinal against No. 2 Hazen on March 9 at 8:15 p.m.
Twin Valley started their playoff drive on March 1 with a 47-42 win in Whitingham over 14th-ranked Randolph. Brett Swanson scored 20 points for the Wildcats, while Skyler Boyd finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wildcats then hosted No. 11 Winooski in a quarterfinal on March 4. Swanson and Boyd again led the way in a 45-38 win. Swanson had 29 points, including 5 three-pointers, while Skyler Boyd added 11 points.
Twin Valley led 27-18 at halftime and stretched that lead to 40-25 before Winooski rallied to make the final score a little closer.
Hazen, the defending Division III champs, knocked out Twin Valley in the quarterfinals last season.
• The records were identical — 11-8 — going into their first-round Division II playoff game, but No. 10 Bellows Falls came up short against No. 7 Harwood, 68-46, in Duxbury on Feb. 28.
Lucas Baron led the Highlanders with 23 points, shooting 8 for 16 from the floor. Shane Clark (16 points) and Cam Joy (8 points) led the way for the Terriers, who fell behind 19-11 in the first quarter and trailed 31-23 at the half.
• No. 15 Leland & Gray had the unenviable task of facing the defending Division III champions, the second-seeded Hazen Wildcats, in the first round of the playoffs on March 1 in Hardwick.
Hazen rolled to an 80-24 win as Denis LeCours lit up the scoreboard for 41 points. LeCours was 11-for-12 from two-point range, and made 3 of his 8 attempts from beyond the three-point line. He also had 11 rebounds and 5 assists before calling it a night at the end of the third quarter.
Aaron Claussen and Nathan Claussen each scored 5 points for Leland & Gray, which finished the season at 3-18.
• Brattleboro finished strong with a pair of wins, which evened their regular season record at 10-10 and the Colonel girls the No. 12 seed in the Division I tournament and a long bus ride to BFA-St. Albans to face the No. 5 Bobwhites (14-6) in the first round on March 7.
On Feb. 28, the Colonels came back from a four-point halftime deficit to beat Leland & Gray, 51-49, in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer game.
Senior center Gabby Carpenter had 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals for the Colonels, while sophomore guard Hailey Derosia had 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Senior point guard Devin Millerick chipped in 10 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals. Leland & Gray’s Jessie Stockwell and Maris Linder each hit three-pointers in the final quarter to make it a close game.
In the Senior Night game at the BUHS gym on March 2, Millerick marked the occasion with 15 points, including three three-pointers, to clobber Burr & Burton, 60-30. The other four seniors — Carpenter (10 points), Shenise Taliaferro (7 points), Kelsey McAuliffe (6 points), and Danielle Wood (2 points) — also got into the scorebook.
The Colonels’ five seniors were part of Vermont high school basketball playoff history last season when the Colonels were the No. 14 seed to reach the final four of the tournament. Can lightning strike twice?
• On Feb. 27, the Rebels rallied to beat Bellows Falls, 44-35, in Westminster. Stockwell had 10 points in the second half to lead the comeback and finished with 15 points. Taylor Goodell was BF’s top scorer with 9 points.
• BF lost to Proctor, 43-41, on Feb. 28, but ended the regular season on March 2 with a 59-28 rout of Poultney in the Senior Night game at Holland Gymnasium. Macie Streeter scored a game-high 18 points, including 5 three-pointers, and had 7 steals. Hannah Kelly added 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Murphy Hicks 10 rebounds.
It was the last home game for Hicks, Kelly, and guard Keri Ticino. It was also the last home came for BF coach Joe Goodhue, who is finishing up his tenure with the Terriers’ varsity girls program. BF finished the regular season at 12-8 for the No. 9 seed in Division II and a trip north to Barton to play No. 8 Lake Region (13-7) in a first-round game on March 7.
• Leland & Gray finished the regular season at 14-6 and took the third seed in Division III. They’ll host No. 14 Poultney (7-13) in a first-round game on March 8 at 7 p.m.
• At 5-15, Twin Valley was seeded No. 16 in Division III, and will be at Windsor on March 7 for a first-round game against top-seeded Windsor (17-3).
• There’s no pleasant way to lose a playoff game, but a sudden death goal in overtime to break up a scoreless tie is about as painful as it gets. That’s what happened to the No. 7 Brattleboro Colonels when Woodstock’s Sadie Kuhn’s scored with 33 seconds left in the first 8-minute overtime period for a 1-0 win for the second-seeded Wasps.
Senior goaltender Keagan Jameson played one of the best games of her Colonels career, stopping 22 of the 23 shots she faced. Goalie Bridgit Black made 18 saves for Woodstock.
Coach Melinda Burke said that senior captain Sarah LaPorte, sophomore Liz Day, and freshmen Juniper DiMatteo-LaPape and Tobin Lonergan “consistently challenged the Woodstock forwards at our blue line, which contributed to keeping the overall shot count low. They moved the puck quickly out of our zone, which resulted in many minutes of play in Woodstock’s zone.”
Burke said the Colonels’ top line of Axis Balsley-Petraska, Olivia Romo, and Hannah Curtiss “played well together and had their chances throughout the game. Unfortunately, we had trouble hitting the net with our shots.”
Senior Emily Martyn and junior Olivia Stent successfully killed three penalties, including one in overtime, allowing the Woodstock power play only one shot on goal, and junior captain Jamie Mahoney dominated on face-offs.
LaPorte, Jameson, Martyn, Curtiss, and Emma Case and Shaneika Graves will all be graduating in June. Burke said “it has been an honor and a privilege to coach this group of student-athletes,” adding that while the team was “very disappointed with the outcome,” the coaches were “very proud of their effort. They were fierce, confident, and determined.”
• The 10th-seeded Brattleboro Colonels showed signs of improvement in the final week of the regular season, and looked like they had a chance against the No. 7 Missisquoi Thunderbirds in the first round of the Division II boys’ hockey tournament. But the T-Birds recovered from a slow start to beat the Colonels, 5-2, in Highgate on March 1.
Missisquoi scored first on a power play goal by Kyle Gilbert, but Kam Pelkey tied the game late in the opening period. Brattleboro had a 12-6 advantage in shots and had the T-Birds on their heels.
But Missisquoi came back in the second period with two goals coming 14 seconds apart. During a 4-on-4, Chris Bessette tipped in a drive from Brad Bessette to give the T-Birds the lead. Timmy Fournier then scored on the next shift, tipping in the puck after getting the carom when Brendan Bessette blocked a clearing pass.
Mason Powers scored for the Colonels late in the second period to tighten the proceedings, but the T-Birds clinched the win in the third period with two Brendan Bessette goals.
Brattleboro goalie Sam Griffith finished the game with 27 saves, 13 of them in the third period. T-Bird goalie Cam Gagne had 30 saves. The Colonel boys ended the season with a 4-14-13 record.
Sign-ups begin for spring youth sports
• The Brattleboro Recreation and Parks Department will be holding registration for T-Ball, Small Fry Baseball, the Girls Youth Softball Program, and youth lacrosse on Wednesday and Thursday, March 8 and 9, at the Gibson-Aiken Center from 1:30 to 6 p.m.
T-Ball, for boys and girls born between Sept. 1, 2010 and Aug. 31, 2012, is baseball for a young beginner. This league runs for approximately two months. Youngsters will be placed on a team, and will have one practice and one game per week. Each child will need a baseball glove.
Small Fry Baseball, the next level up from T-Ball, is for boys and girls born between Sept. 1, 2007 and Aug. 31, 2010.
The Girls Youth Softball League is for girls in grades 3-6. There will be one or two practices a week and some games in surrounding towns and may have more than one game a week.
The cost for Small Fry and girls’ softball will be $35 for Brattleboro residents and $50 for non-residents. T-Ball is $25 for Brattleboro residents and $40 for non-residents. A t-shirt is included in the registration fee.
The youth lacrosse program is for boys and girls from grades 3 through 8. There will be separate teams for boys and girls. The cost of the program will be: Boys Grades 3-4, $15 resident/$30 non-resident; Boys Grades 5-8, $45 resident/$60 non-resident; Girls Grades 3-4, $45 resident/$60 non-resident; and Girls Grades 5-8, $105 resident/$120 non-resident.
Practice times are still to be determined. The fee for all girls and fifth- and sixth-grade boys includes a membership to U.S. Lacrosse. Games and tournaments will be played within the region. There will be 2-3 practices a week and games/tournaments potentially on weekends or weekdays. A minimum of 17 participants is needed in order to run each age group.
If there are special needs required for any of these activities, or if more information is needed, call the Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department at 802-254-5808, or visit them on Facebook for up-to-date information.
Senior bowling roundup
• Team 6 (26-9) remains in first place after Week 7 of the winter season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League. Team 10 (23-12) now is in sole possession of second place, while Team 2 (22-13) fell to third and Team 1 (20-15) jumped up to fourth. Team 9 (19-16) is fifth, followed by Team 7 (19-19), Team 4 (14-21), Team 5 (13-22), and Team 8 and Team 1 (both 11-24).
Shirley Aiken (241) had the women’s high handicap game, while Kay Wistrom (642) had the women’s high handicap series. Fred Bump (253) had the men’s high handicap game and Peter Cross (650) had the men’s high handicap series. Team 10 had the high team handicap game (837) and series (2,434).
Wayne Farnham (506), Cross (542), Fred Ashworth (524), and Marty Adams (542) all rolled 500-plus series. Doug Switzer (201), Cross (209), and Bump (204) were the only bowlers with 200-plus games.