It’s a truism in basketball that if your offense is struggling, Plan B is to try create some scoring opportunities by playing as aggressively as possible on defense.
I saw two examples of this coaching strategy this week that led to a pair of wins for the Leland & Gray and Brattleboro girls’ basketball teams.
On March 4 in Townshend, the Rebels overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Arlington, 34-30, for their first win of the season. The following night, at the BUHS gym, the Colonels held off a late rally by Mount Anthony in a 45-41 victory.
• Of the two games, the Leland & Gray/Arlington contest was the more rugged one. If you like your basketball with bruises and floor burns, this was the one to watch.
In their first home game of the season, the Rebels battled the Eagles on nearly every possession and players on both sides spent the bulk of the game either on the floor diving for loose balls, or forcing turnovers through aggressive defense. The possession arrow changed 29 times in all after tie-ups on rebounds and turnovers, and there were 36 personal fouls between the teams.
It was not a high scoring game, but it looked like Arlington was in control. The Eagles led 8-4 after one quarter, and after the Rebels tied the game with five minutes left in the second quarter, the Eagles scored 10 unanswered points, including a pair of late three-pointers by Trina Gordon, for a 22-12 halftime lead.
The Rebels struggled to score in the first half, but their defensive effort never wavered and that keyed the second half comeback. Leland & Gray cut the Arlington lead down to 25-23 at the end of the third quarter and won the game in the final minutes thanks to five clutch free throws by Abigail Emerson and baskets from Mary Sanderson, Hannah Landers, and Hannah Greenwood.
Greenwood and Emerson led all scorers with 10 points. Sid Harrington led the Eagles with nine points, but was held to a single free throw in the second half before fouling out. The Rebels finished the week at 1-4. On March 1, they lost to Springfield, 41-16.
“We’re young and still learning, but the girls play hard in every game,” said Rebels coach Terry Merrow.
• Against Mount Anthony, the Colonels had both elements of their game working in the first half. Forward Cadance Gilbert set the tone with a pair of steals in the first 38 seconds of the game that she turned into baskets.
Brattleboro had 20 steals in all, as seven players in all were credited with takeaways. Gilbert, who finished with 14 points and seven steals, was the key player for the Colonels on this night.
“She is developing and learning,” said Colonels coach Chris Worden. “She is able to do a lot of things for us — a good defender, a great rebounder, and she can score.”
Gilbert had help from Chloe Givens and Diamond Bedward, who scored 12 and nine points, respectively, and were strong performers in the final quarter in answering the call with points when the Colonels needed them. The Patriots got close, whittling the lead down to 39-38 midway through the fourth, but defense and the work of Givens and Bedward saved the day.
Since it was Senior Night, it was fitting that Natalie Hendricks did a good job running the offense and Lily Giroux got a hoop in the first quarter. Hendricks, Giroux, and injured teammate Madison Johnson were all honored before the game.
The Colonels finished the week at 4-3. Earlier in the week, on March 1, the Colonels rolled over Arlington, 60-25. Givens led Brattleboro with 19 points, with 15 of them coming in the second half. The visiting Colonels took control by outscoring the Eagles 26-0 in the third quarter, and using a 2-3 zone press on defense.
• Bellows Falls got their week off to a good start with a 43-32 win over Green Mountain at Holland Gymnasium on March 1. Sydney Bazin and Bre Stockman both had 10 points for the Terriers, while Kim Cummings led the Chieftains with 13 points, and Hailey Pierce had 12. BF traveled to Poultney on March 4 and lost 35-28 to finish their week at 2-5.
• Twin Valley opened with an 11-0 run and rolled to a 56-21 win over visiting Poultney on March 1. Jayden Crawford led the way with 15 points, Kate Longe followed with 14 points and eight rebounds, Sadie Boyd scored 12 and Hannah Sullivan added 11.
The Wildcats then suffered a crushing 55-18 road loss to undefeated West Rutland on March 4 to end their week at 2-3. The Golden Horde led 14-5 after one quarter and 31-7 at halftime.
• Brattleboro rallied from an early deficit and hung on for a 47-43 win over Burr & Burton at the BUHS gym on March 1.
Sam Mattocks scored 11 points, as he and Trinley Warren hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Colonels ahead to stay in the final minutes. Gabe Packard had 14 points, and Greg Fitzgerald added 10 to lead the Colonels. Madox Matthews led the Bulldogs with 18 points.
The Colonels then had their toughest game of the season on March 5 when they traveled to Rutland to face the undefeated Ravens. Rutland showed why they are the top team in Division I with a dominating 82-38 victory.
Rutland actually trailed in the early going, as Fitzgerald and Warren both sank three-pointers to give the Colonels a 10-2 lead. The Ravens then took over from there, and overwhelmed the Colonels with an 11-0 run in the second quarter. Rutland led by 13 at the half and cruised from there.
Noah Depoy had 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Ravens. Mattocks was Brattleboro top scorer with 10 points. The Colonels ended their week at 3-4.
• Twin Valley coach Chris Brown celebrated a big milestone on March 2 with his 200th career win, a 53-45 victory over Bellows Falls in Holland Gymnasium. Brown has been the Wildcats’ coach since 2007 and brought them to the Division IV championship game in 2020.
The Wildcats put away the game with an 18-0 run in the second half. Colin McHale led Twin Valley with 24 points, including 11 during the big run. Izaak Park added 13 points.
BF led by as many 11 points, until Twin Valley’s 2-3 defense and hot shooting by McHale and Park turned the game around. Jamison Nystrom led the Terriers with 16 points, Jon Terry added 11 points and 15 rebounds, and Jack Cravinho scored 10 points.
• Bellows Falls lost on the road to Mount Anthony, 62-46, on March 5 to finish their week at 4-3.
• After three straight losses to start the season, Leland & Gray got two wins last week. On March 2 in Townshend, the Rebels knocked off Arlington, 59-49. Three nights later, the Rebels needed overtime to beat Poultney, 72-69, on March 5. The Blue Devils led for most of the game until the visiting Rebels rallied late to force OT.
• Brattleboro had no idea who they were playing until the night before the game, but despite some last-minute scheduling chaos, the Colonels kept their focus and beat St. Johnsbury, 6-2, on March 6 in Barre.
The Colonels got the first goal of the game against the winless Hilltoppers as Ryan Gerard got a power play goal four minutes into the first period. They got another early tally in the second period from Mason Foard, got another goal from Ernie Antonucci, and a second goal from Foard in the final minute for a 4-0 lead.
Goaltender Austin Wood stopped 16 shots, including three during a Hilltopper power play in the second period, before getting a breather in the third period from Darek Harvey and Matthew Gordon-Macy. Gavin Howard scored twice, including a short-handed goal in the final period.
The 5-2 Colonels finish the regular season on March 10 against Burr & Burton at Withington Rink, and could clinch the first or second seed in the Division II playoffs with a win.
• Burr & Burton downed visiting Brattleboro, 6-3, on March 3. Prior to this game, the Bulldogs had only scored three goals in their first five games.
The Bulldogs got a goal from Kilo Francomb in the first 30 seconds of the game, and never looked back. Sheila Turner and Skyler Smith also scored for a 3-0 lead after one period.
Juliana Miskovich got the Colonels’ first goal at the start of the second period, but Burr & Burton blunted the momentum with a goal from Abigail Kopeck.
Burr & Burton took a 4-1 lead into the final period and got goals from Abby Farrington and Lauren Barrows. Brattleboro got third period tallies from Marina Wilson and Brianna Paul.
• Brattleboro slipped in the state standings after Week 3 of the season. Hartford is in first place and Randolph moved into second.
The defending champs, Fair Haven, are tied for third with South Burlington, while Brattleboro is now tied with Burlington for fifth place and Springfield is in seventh.
Rec. Dept. plans signs-ups for spring youth sports
• The Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department is now accepting registrations for spring youth sports programs, including Small Fry baseball, softball, T-Ball, gymnastics, and boys and girls lacrosse.
Additionally, per the updated guidance from the state of Vermont, the Rec. Dept. is accepting registrations for youth from Vermont and bordering states to participate in Recreation Department programs.
To register, call the Recreation & Parks Department Office at 802-254-5808 to schedule an in-person appointment at the Gibson-Aiken Center, 207 Main St. In-person registration will also be held in the Senior Center at Gibson-Aiken on March 17 and 18, from 1:30 to 6 p.m. Everyone is asked wear a mask and socially distance while waiting in line. Enter the building through the back door for registration.
You may also go to brattleboro.org and complete the fillable registration form along with the COVID-19 release form, and then either email them to email@example.com or send them to Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department, ATTN: Spring Registration, P.O. Box 513, Brattleboro, VT 05302. Checks should be made out to “Brattleboro Recreation & Parks.”
Girls on the Run needs coaches
• Girls on the Run Vermont’s coach registration period is open as they seek additional coaches across the state for the spring 2021 that begins on April 5.
Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based, positive youth development program that inspires girls in grades 3-8 to be joyful, healthy and confident. The eight-week program incorporates running to teach critical life skills, encourage personal development and foster team building and community service.
Volunteer coaches utilize a curriculum to engage teams of girls in fun, interactive lessons. Lesson content covers topics such as empathy, friendship, identifying and managing emotions and more. Teams meet twice a week for 90 minutes and the program culminates with all teams participating in a celebratory 5k run/walk event.
COVID-19 protocols will be in effect this spring to ensure the safety and well-being of coaches and girls. The program will be offered in-person with the ability to pivot to a virtual space should weather or community illness dictate.
Coaches do not need to be runners, but are required to be a minimum of 18 years old to serve as an assistant or 21 years old to serve as a head coach. All volunteer coaches must complete a background check and attend a training session. For more information about coaching and Girls on the Run Vermont, visit www.gotrvt.org/coach.