During soccer season, Leland & Gray’s teams were near the top of the Vermont Division III high school standings.
Now that it’s basketball season, the only thing that’s changed at Leland & Gray is the ball. Both the boys’ and the girls’ teams are riding high in Division III and both putting together great seasons.
The Rebel boys are off to a 7-1 start, with their latest win a 70-22 demolition of Green Mountain in Townshend last Friday. Everyone on the roster scored in a game that was never competitive.
The Rebels started the GM game with a bang. Senior Riley Kenney and junior Jake Sherman keyed the offense, while senior captains Drew Barnum and Billy Nupp worked down low to get the rebounds and putbacks. The Rebels led 11-0 in the first four minutes of the game until senior Calvin Stowell made a fast break layup to finally put the Chiefs on the board.
GM trailed 20-8 by the end of the first quarter, and never recovered from their slow start. After taking a 33-13 lead at the half, coach Andy Nystrom cleared his bench in the second half and gave plenty of minutes to the reserves.
One of the “Pine Brothers” who took advantage of the opportunity was senior Kevin Ke, who had the game of his life. Coming into the fourth quarter, Ke made a theatrical, 360 spin under the hoop to avoid a block from freshman Lucas Trask. Ke’s shot dramatically bounced around the rim for a few seconds and then dropped right in. The crowd went crazy over the play and Ke’s personal rally extended to a total nine points, third-most on the night for the Rebels.
With the win, the Rebels brought their team points scored per game average to 61.5 and lowered their points allowed average to 39.1. Senior Andy Brown led the Rebels in scoring with 13 points and five offensive rebounds, while Nupp scored 11 with six defensive rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Sophomore Kyle Kemp led the Chiefs with 10 points.
• The Rebel girls are ranked No. 1 in Division III with a 5-1 record, but the team hasn’t played since the championship game in the Bellows Falls Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29. Their first scheduled game of the new year was Jan. 14 against Mount St. Joseph in Rutland.
Can the Rebels continue to play well despite a two-week layoff? We’ll soon find out.
• Another local team that’s in a great groove right now is the Brattleboro boys’ hockey team. Undefeated at home, they have a 8-1 record and are the No. 2 team in the Lake Division.
On Jan. 9 at Withington Rink, the Colonels crushed St. Johnsbury, 5-0. Adam Griffin got the Colonels’ first goal at the end of the opening period, and Andy Harris added to the lead with a goal from Jimmy Podlaski in the final seconds of the second period. The floodgates opened in third with goals from freshman Evan Perkins, a shorthanded score from Harris, and a wraparound by Nik Rancourt. Junior goalkeeper Greg DiSilva picked up the shut out.
• By contrast, the Brattleboro girls are struggling. On Jan 2, they lost 4-0 at Harwood, and on Jan. 9, they lost 7-1 to Northfield to fall to 1-5 on the season.
• The Colonels are struggling. Last Friday at St. Johnsbury, they lost 66-39 to fall to 3-6. Isaac Roach paced Brattleboro with nine points. The Colonels had a 14-3 lead after one quarter, but the undefeated Hilltoppers came roaring back to take a 26-21 lead at the half and control the game the rest of the way.
• Twin Valley is having a tough time too. Last Friday, they lost to Woodstock at home, 56-43. The Wildcats squandered an early lead, and allowed the Wasps back into the game to stay by halftime.
Colin Lozito and Dal Nesbitt led the Wildcats with 15 and 14 points respectively and Sam Molner had 12 rebounds, but the telling statistic of the night was that Twin Valley shot 6-for-29 from beyond the three-point line.
On Jan. 8, the Wildcats lost to Poultney, 66-53, on the road. The Blue Devils opened with an 11-2 run, and had a 37-23 advantage at the half. Nesbit and Lozito again led the way for Twin Valley as Nesbitt had a team-high 23 points, while Lozito finished with 11 points and 10 assists. Twin Valley finished the week at 2-6.
• Spaulding used a near-perfect 15-for-16 night at the free throw line to beat Brattleboro, 45-36, at the BUHS gym on Jan. 8.
The Colonels got as close as two, 34-32, in the final quarter, but were unable to overtake Spaulding. Taylor Bird scored 13 points, eight of them in the fourth quarter, to lead the Colonels. The 3-5 Colonels will play at St. Johnsbury on Friday night.
• Too many turnovers and too few shots going in led to Twin Valley dropping a 34-19 decision to Springfield last Thursday.
The Wildcats gave up 26 possessions, which negated a 47-31 advantage in rebounding. Lexi Reinertson led Twin Valley with five points, while Hannah Swanson, Christina Moore, and Sammy Cunningham-Darrah chipped in four apiece.
• Brattleboro competed in a seven-school classic race at Mountain Top Nordic Center in Chittenden on Jan. 8 on Tuesday.
Once again, in the girls’ varsity race, it was a duel for first place between Brattleboro’s Halie Lange and Rutland’s Chloe Levins, two of the top racers in the state.
Levins went out about a minute earlier than Lange, so the two never saw each other on the 2.7-kilometer course. Racing against the clock, Lange made up an early 3.5 second lead by Levins to finish 10 seconds ahead of her rival. Brattleboro’s Linnea Jahn had an off day, but still managed to finish 14th out of 40 racers.
The boys’ varsity race saw Brattleboro make a strong showing with three racers in the top 20, including Graham Glennon (fourth), Austin Lester (13th) and Oliver Pomazi (16th). Declan King finished 23rd to help give the Colonel boys a team score of 56, which was good enough for third behind Mt. Anthony and Woodstock.
Shrine game goes under the lights
• For the first time in the history of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, the annual all-star game featuring Vermont and New Hampshire’s top high school football players will be played in the early evening.
Dartmouth College and the Shrine’s Board of Governors announced last week that the 60th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl will be played on Memorial Field on Saturday, Aug. 3, with kick-off scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The traditional Pre-Game Shrine Parade is expected to still be held at noon.
This will be the first time in that the Shrine game has been played at a time other than early afternoon. The hope is that the later starting time will increase attendance and cut down on heat injuries to players.
Of the 30 Shrine Football games played every year across the country, the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl ranks third in terms of money raised for the Shriners Hospitals. The event is sponsored by the three Shrine Centers of New Hampshire and Vermont — Bektash (Concord, N.H.), Cairo (Rutland) and Mt. Sinai (Montpelier) — and has raised more than $4.5 million since it was first played in Nashua, N.H. in 1954.
Vermont and New Hampshire, the latter of which leads the all-time series 44-13-2, each select 36 of the top graduated high school senior football players from their respective states to square off on the gridiron every year since the game’s inception. More than 4,000 players have participated in the event, of which about two-thirds still live in the Twin States.
This year, Jason Thomas of Burr & Burton Academy will serve as head coach for Vermont, while Ray Kershaw from Mascoma Valley High School will lead the New Hampshire Shrine team.
More than 200 players from Vermont and New Hampshire, all graduating high school seniors, have been nominated by their respective head coaches. Screening committees, chaired by the two head coaches, will select the two 36-man teams. The two teams will be announced in February, and formal practice for the summer classic will begin Saturday, July 27.
CRVBL adds another team
• The Connecticut River Valley Baseball League (CRVBL) will enter its 12th season of competition this spring with a new member, as league officials voted to admit the Sunapee Old Lakers as CRVBL’s eighth team.
The Old Lakers will be managed by Bill Austin, and join existing franchises in Brattleboro, Putney and Chester in Vermont and Keene, Claremont, Walpole and Newport in New Hampshire.
CRVBL representatives also are spending the winter working on the 2013 schedule, proposed rules revisions, and eligibility requirements as new players are encouraged to apply through the league website at www.crvbl.org.
Any player born on or before December 31, 1993 is eligible to play in the CRVBL this season, with pitchers having to be 30 years old or older at the time they pitch. This year, teams will play a 14 game league schedule starting on April 14, with two weekends of playoffs concluding on Aug. 25.