After weeks of uncertainty due to COVID-19 restrictions, Vermont’s high school basketball players were able to take the court on Feb. 12.
Like everything the pandemic has touched over the past 11 months, things looked a little different. There were no spectators in the stands, aside from media members and school support staff. Players and officials wore face masks. Instead of sitting together on a bench, players were spread out in the stands and physical contact was kept to a minimum.
However, the game was still the same, even with the fans having to stay home to either listen to the radio or watch streaming video to follow the action.
The Bellows Falls girls’ and boys’ basketball teams came to Brattleboro for their opening games. It was admittedly a bit strange to see a season opener played two months later than usual in a gymnasium without fans, but COVID-19 runs on its own schedule and plays by its own rules.
• Bellows Falls overcame a slow start to finish strong and pull out a 62-59 win over the Colonels on Feb. 12 at the BUHS gym.
Brattleboro led 36-20 at halftime, but the Terriers gradually chipped away at the Colonels’ lead. With point guard Jamison Nystrom orchestrating the BF offense, combined with a stronger defensive effort, the Terriers closed the gap to 45-38 after three quarters.
The Colonels could not seal the deal in the final period, particularly in the last two minutes when an 8-0 BF run put the Terriers in front for the win. Jack Cravinho made a lay-up, Nystrom sank a mid-range jumper, and Jon Terry scored a pair of baskets to complete the first win for the Terriers in the BUHS gym in 25 years.
“We believed,” said BF coach John Hollar of his players. “We’ve been practicing for the last 30 days to have a game like this.”
Having a couple of big bodies on the front line helped too. Center Owen LaRoss led BF with 15 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocked shots, while Terry, playing at forward, scored all of his 13 points in the second half.
Brattleboro looked good in the first half, as their defensive pressure and uptempo offense knocked BF back on its heels. Gabe Packard scored 12 of his game-high 22 points in the first half, while Zinabu McNeice and Greg Fitzgerald each hit a three-pointer.
Nystrom finished with 11 points for the Terriers, while Jackson Goodell chipped in 10 points and Cravinho added 8 points. Fitzgerald was the only other Colonel in double figures with 12 points.
• Green Mountain exploded for 40 points in the second half as the Chieftains rolled to a 62-22 win over Leland & Gray in the season opener on Feb. 12 at Nason Gymnasium.
The visiting Rebels trailed 22-8 at halftime, but GM poured it on in the second half as all nine of its players scored. Ty Merrill led Green Mountain with 20 points and Reed Hyerkowiecz added 11 points.
• Brattleboro used a balanced scoring attack and overcame some first-half jitters to rally to a 52-33 win over Bellows Falls in the opener for both teams on Feb. 13 at the BUHS gym.
The Terriers led 23-19 at the half, but the Colonels took control of the game in the third, outscoring BF 20-4 to take a 39-27 lead heading into the final period.
Natalie Hendricks and Chloe Givens each scored 10 points to lead the Colonels, as all 11 players scored. Brie Stockman led the Terriers with nine points.
“We made some defensive adjustments at halftime,” said Colonels coach Chris Worden. “We needed to improve our press and force more turnovers.”
Brattleboro followed that plan well, disrupting the BF offense while generating a lot of points from the Terriers’ turnovers. “It’s been something we’ve been working on in practice,” Worden said.
The weeks of additional practice turned out to be helpful for the Colonels. “We only have three returning players, so the extra time gave us a chance to work on a lot of different things.”
• Green Mountain’s defense shut down Leland & Gray as the visiting Chieftains won their opener, 34-11, in Townshend on Feb. 12.
• The Brattleboro girls opened their season in Barre on Feb. 13 against U-32, and lost, 10-4.
Willow Romo scored a pair of unassisted goals in the third period to lead the Colonels. Lily Carignan and Bri Paul also scored for Brattleboro, with assists going to Rosie Carignan, Alex Gregory and Marina Wilson. Goaltender Angela Tobin made 20 saves, and Abbey Squiers also logged some time between the pipes.
U-32 put the game away with five goals in the second period. Graycb Kurrie had three goals and two assists and Ali Guthrie had two goals and two assists. Goaltender Jin Clayton made 18 saves to notch the win.
• The Brattleboro boys dominated Northfield from start to finish in a lopsided 10-0 win in the Colonels’ opener at Withington Rink on Feb. 13.
The Colonels outshot the Marauders, 42-4, as goaltenders Austin Wood, Darek Harvey and Matthew Gordon-Macey combined for the shutout. Brattleboro led 3-0 after the first period, and 6-0 at the end of the second period.
Sam Hall scored the game’s opening goal just 2:20 into the first period. He went on also tally four assists. Jack Pattison scored four goals — one late in the first period, one in the second, and two in the third. Brett Parsons scored in the first and second periods, and Mason Foard, Gavin Howard, and Alex Palomba also added a goal each.
• Mount Anthony and Brattleboro continued their battle for the top spot in the Southern Vermont League. On Feb. 10 at the Woodstock Nordic Center, Mount Anthony won both the girls’ and boys’ classic races, with Brattleboro finishing second in both events.
Rutland was third and Burr & Burton was fourth in the boys’ meet, while Burr & Burton came in third in the girls’ meet. Rutland and Woodstock did not have enough skiers for a team score in the girls’ meet.
Conditions were again excellent for the skiers as Mount Anthony had the top two boys’ finishers, with Riley Thurber covering the 5K course in 17 minutes, 22 seconds, and Finn Payne finishing second in 17:39.
Twin Valley’s Luke Rizio’s individual winning streak this season ended with a third place finish in 17:40. Brattleboro’s Nolan Holmes (fourth, 17:52) and Tenzin Mathes (fifth, 18:19) completed the top five.
Brattleboro’s Sam Freitas-Eagan (ninth, 19:11) and teammate Magnus vonKrusenstiern (12th, 19:44) rounded out the Colonels’ scorers. Twin Valley’s Finn Fisher wound up 10th overall in 19:24.
Mount Anthony also took the top two spots in the girls’ race, as Maggie Payne (20:33) and Eden White (20:54) finished first and second, respectively. Woodstock’s Victoria Bassette was third. Katherine Normandeau placed fourth overall in 22:41 to lead the Brattleboro girls, followed by Ava Whitney (sixth, 23:01), Sylvie Normandeau (ninth, 23:54), and Alina Secrest (10th, 24:20).
The teams will be back in action for a skate race at Prospect Mountain in Woodford on Feb. 17.
Pacheco to coach Vermont Shrine team
• Topping the ”bucket list” of every Vermont high school football coach are two things — winning a state championship and coaching the Vermont squad in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.
Brattleboro’s Chad Pacheco crossed off the first item when the Colonels went 11-0 and won the Division II championship in 2019, the school’s first state football title in 46 years.
Last week, he learned he could cross off the other item, as he was selected to lead the Vermont all-stars against their New Hampshire counterparts in the 2021 Shrine game.
The Shrine game had to take 2020 off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers hope the 2021 edition will be able to go off as planned on Saturday, Aug. 7 at Castleton University’s Dave Wolk Stadium.
Pacheco has been the Colonels’ head football coach since 2015, and served as an assistant coach from 2005 to 2014. He’s also not a stranger to all-star games, as he has been an assistant several times in the Vermont North/South game and was the head coach in the 2019 game.
“I feel honored for the opportunity to coach this team and be part of the long-standing tradition of the Maple Sugar Bowl,” Pacheco said in a news release.
Meanwhile, the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Board of Governors has its fingers crossed that the 68th edition of this fundraiser for the Shriners Children’s Hospitals will happen. That will all depend on whether COVID-19 has been brought under control in Vermont and the rest of the nation.
“We are well into the first quarter of 2021 and we are anxiously awaiting positive news from the Vermont Department of Health letting us know if our classic football game will be allowed to take place in August,” said General Chairman Kristi Morris, in a news release. “As the number of new cases levels off and more vaccinations are distributed, we remain optimistic that our football game can be played this summer.”
Kingswood Regional High School’s Paul Landry was selected as New Hampshire’s coach for this year’s game. Both he and Pacheco are currently working on selecting the high school seniors who will be playing for their respective states. New Hampshire has a 48-16-2 lead in the series.
Livestreamed sports available for BUHS, BF fans
• Fans of Vermont high school sports will not be able to enjoy games in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, but some area schools are making an effort to livestream games.
Brattleboro is streaming varsity and junior varsity boys’ and girls’ basketball games, both home and away, on the NFHS Network.
A paid subscription ($10.99 per month with other options available) is required to watch the action live or on demand. To watch, visit www.NFHSnetwork.com and search for Brattleboro Union High School, or go directly to the BUHS page at www.nfhsnetwork.com/schools/6209f1c976.
The school plans to share replays of the basketball games with families of the players the next day, free of charge. They will also post the games on the BUHS athletics YouTube page at www.youtube.com/channel/UCD19x6P4q-jdD9afKO4GrGQ.
Brattleboro boys’ and girls’ ice hockey home games will be livestreamed on the BUHS athletics Youtube page. WTSA (1450-AM and 99.5-FM) will be doing live radio broadcasts of basketball and hockey games, as well as offer a free audio livestream on wtsaradio.com/995-the-beast. Brattleboro Community TV (brattleborotv.org)will also offer on-demand replays of games.
• Bellows Falls will stream all of its boys’ and girls’ basketball games at www.bfuhs.org or through Falls Area Community Television (FACT-TV), while Green Mountain will be doing live streaming of games on Okemo Valley TV’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/okemovalleytv.