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Winooski’s second-half surge ends BF boys’ title run

The fifth-seeded Bellows Falls Terriers smelled an upset against the top-seeded and undefeated Winooski Spartans in the Division III boys’ basketball semifinal on March 9 at the Barre Auditorium.

The Terriers had them. They really did. But an injury to one of Bellows Falls’ key players along with a spectacular second half by the Spartans resulted in 20-point defeat to Winooski, 71-51.

The Spartans looked vulnerable in the early going. They coughed up four turnovers while Bellows Falls dominated the boards (six defensive and six offensive rebounds in the first quarter). Cole Moore hit a basket at the buzzer and the Terriers led 16-14.

But Bellows Falls’ Achilles’ heel was trying to contain Spartans forward Daniel Surma (18 points) and guard Hassan Hassan (16 points). Winooski led, 26-18, but Bellows Falls hung with them. Jamison Nystrom hit a three-pointer, Walker James scored four points (nine total), and the Terriers pulled down seven more defensive rebounds and five more offensive rebounds than the Spartans.

Winooski led by three points at halftime (28-25), but the momentum shifted dramatically when Nystrom went down with a high ankle sprain. Nystrom courageously played the rest of the game — limping.

After the game, Winooski Head Coach Sam Jackson praised Nystrom, who finished with nine points, for his efforts.

“[Jamison] is a tough ball player,” Jackson said. “He’s worked hard all-year-long and I think for the southern half [of the state], he is one of the best.”

Winooski got rid of the “Aud Jitters” with a dominating second half. Bellows Falls turned the ball over five times in the third quarter and the Spartans picked up the pieces to outscore the Terriers, 18-9. Hassan scored nine points in the second half while teammates Trevon Bradley scored six (14 total) and Kellen Bourgeois chipped in with eight.

Bellows Falls was down 46-34 and got into late foul trouble. Winooski went 7-for-10 at the free throw line. The Spartans outscored the Terriers in the final quarter, 25-17 and the ball game was over.

Jake Moore led the Terriers in scoring (10 points). Cole Moore scored nine points, Colby Dearborn scored six, and Jesse Darrell, Caden Haskell, Peter Kamel, and Eli Allbee all chipped in with two points each.

“We weren’t hitting shots like we were in the first half,” Nystrom said. “Transition-wise, we made a lot of easy fast-break points. I also thought we did well rebounding-wise, but (Winooski) was much taller than us.”

The Terriers finished the season with a 17-6 record. Bellows Falls coach Evan Chadwick fought back tears after the team’s gutsy performance.

“The game was right there, but it wasn’t there,” Chadwick said. “We’re not that big, but we got heart. We didn’t stop, we kept coming, and we never gave up. That’s what Bellows Falls basketball is all about.”

Meanwhile, the 22-0 Spartans completed a perfect season by defeating the second-seeded Hazen Wildcats, 57-52, in the Division III championship on March 11.

It’s been 23 years since Bellows Falls’ last trip to the Aud. That was in 2000 when Bellows Falls won the Division II championship in overtime against Montpelier. 65-61.

The Terriers will lose Nystrom, Jake Moore, Kamel, and Haskell to graduation, but will bring back a strong core of players that had their first taste of what it’s like to play at The Aud and have the talent to make a return trip next season.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #706 (Wednesday, March 15, 2023). This story appeared on page B4.

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