After beating Peoples Academy in a nail-biting 42-39 playdown win last Thursday, the third-seeded Leland & Gray Rebels were shut down by the sixth-seeded BFA-Fairfax Bullets. 58-45, in a Division III boys’ basketball quarterfinal game in Townshend last Saturday.
Although the Rebels got off to a promising start, the Bullets recovered from the playoff jitters to dominate the rest of the game.
Senior captains Billy Nupp and Michael Bergeron accounted for six points each while the Rebels’ pressure defense kept stealing the ball as the adrenaline-packed first quarter ended with the Rebels taking a 14-10 lead.
But the Rebels stopped pressing in the second quarter, which opened the door for the Bullets. Senior Jared Demar and sophomore Luke Rebeor led an 18-6 burst by scoring a combined 14 points as the Bullets led 28-20 at the halftime.
The Rebels could not penetrate down low, which forced them to take a lot of jumpers around the perimeter. Although the Rebels had 10 steals with their press, they could not execute their breaks, which led to multiple missed shots and a total of 29 turnovers. By the fourth quarter, BFA had a 41-24 lead.
Leland & Gray continued to force turnovers and give themselves opportunities to score, but the shots just simply couldn’t find their way in. As senior Zach Wilkins fouled out within the last few minutes of the game, the crowd gave him a standing ovation for his heroics in the Peoples game that sent the Rebels into the quarterfinals.
Senior Kris Wehner led BFA with 18 points, with three three-pointers. He also went 9-11 at the foul line. Rebeor hit two three-pointers and had a total of 14 points. For the Rebels, senior captain Drew Barnum led the team with 12 points, the majority coming in the fourth quarter. He hit two threes, had three steals, three blocks and nine rebounds. Bergeron and Nupp added 10 points each.
“All the seniors on the team have played together since grade school, and this was our second playoff win in our time together,” said Wehner. “The key to our success this year comes from our ability to play with one another as a team and to not be afraid of driving the ball. [The Rebels] caught us off our guard there in the beginning, but we were able to catch on and defend them better the rest of the game."
“Going into the game, we knew it was going to be tough,” Wilkens said. “After the first quarter, I was hopeful that we’d play the rest of the game like that. Everyone was pretty disappointed after the second and third quarter when they kept extending their lead. I think what we lacked tonight was team chemistry, we didn’t work well together. After the game, I was really disappointed with the loss, but with the experience of losing in soccer, I didn’t take it as hard as some others did.”
The Rebels finished the season with a 16-6 record, while BFA will face second-seeded Thetford in the semifinals at the Barre Auditorium on Thursday.
• After a 2-0 regular season loss to Brattleboro, U-32 coach Emile Clark had a simple strategy for his first-round Division II playoff game against the No. 8 Colonels at Withington Rink last Saturday night — shut down Colonels all-star Maddie Rollins. The strategy resulted in a 3-2 win for the ninth-seeded Raiders, but it was not an easy win by any means.
While U-32’s Emily George and Stacy Woolaver shadowed Rollins, the game was a stalemate until the Raiders scored a pair of goals at the end of the first period. George found a small opening against Colonels goalie Alex Fellows and scored an unassisted goal with three minutes left. Metta Sairs followed up less than a minute later with another low shot from the slot. Megan Ryan got the assist.
Brattleboro’s Greta Pellerin cut the lead in half just 90 seconds into the second period with a behind-the-back, no look goal set up by Rebecca Potter and Kellie Schiller. But the Colonels could not get the equalizer, and Ryan got the Raiders’ lead back up to two as she knocked in the rebound after Fellows stopped a blast by Rachel Ebersole with two minutes left in the period.
For pure entertainment value, the third period was a pleasure to watch as the Colonels played perhaps their most intense 15 minutes of hockey of the season. They kept the puck in the U-32 zone for most of the period, but good goaltending by Cheyenne Smith held the Colonels to only one goal that came early on in the third.
Two minutes in, Brattleboro’s Lou Lou Terwilliger got a pass off to Amber Bessette, who screened Smith as she eased the puck to Meyru Bhanti. She locked sticks with Smith on the left side of the net, but the puck trickled in to make it 3-2. The Raiders’ defense clamped down after that.
“It was a tough break, but it was a good season,” said Brattleboro coach Linda Burke. “They’re a great group of kids, and it’s been an honor to coach them.”
Brattleboro finished the season at 5-15 but, more importantly, there’s still a girls’ hockey program. There was doubt at the start of this season that there would be enough players to field a team, but 16 underclasswomen came out. These girls are going to be the building blocks for the future, and Burke says she’s already excited about next season.
• Leland & Gray was the only local team to make out of the first round of the playoffs as Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, and Twin Valley all lost.
• No. 3 Rice steamed past No. 14 Brattleboro, 61-42, in a Division I game in South Burlington last Thursday. The Green Knights led by 10 at the half, then used a 13-0 run to start the second half to crush the Colonels. Chris McAuliffe scored a game-high 19 points for Brattleboro, who finished their season with a 6-15 record.
• Fourth-seeded Danville played host No. 13 Twin Valley last Thursday, and came away with a 66-54 win. Trailing by as many as 16 points the first half, the Wildcats got as close as six point with four minutes left in the game, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Colin Lozito led the 8-13 Wildcats with 13 points, while Cade Nesbitt added 11, and Hunter Therrien chipped in 10.
• No. 13 Bellows Falls was overwhelmed by fourth-seeded U-32, 75-45, in a first-round Division II playoff game in East Montpelier on Feb. 26. The Terriers kept it close for one quarter, but U-32 led 38-22 at the half, and pulled away in the second half. Trevor Wilson led BF with 17 points. Kendrick Mills added 11 points as the Terriers finished their season with a 7-14 record.
• Leland & Gray and Twin Valley have had up-and-down seasons but, as the old cliche goes, you can throw the records out the window when rivals face each other, no matter what sport they play.
In the latest installment of Rebels versus Wildcats on Feb. 26 in Wilmington, Leland & Gray eked out a 48-46 overtime win over Twin Valley.
The Wildcats fed off the energy of the home crowd and led by as many as 11 points with 11 minutes to play. But the Rebels regrouped and outscored Twin Valley, 20-9, the rest of the way to force overtime.
Ashley Goddard took the game over at that point, converting five free throws in the extra session. She finished with 13 points, as did Alex Morrow, who also scored a key overtime basket. Haley Buffum added 11. Jordan Niles led the Wildcats with 16 points, while Abbi Molner added 10.
The Rebels finished with a 9-11 record and the eighth seed in Division III. They’ll host No. 9 Richford. As for the 7-13 Wildcats, they got the No. 12 seed in Division III and are on the road to face fifth-seeded Winooski. Both games are scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 6.
• The Colonels finished the regular season last Friday with a 66-36 loss to Mount Anthony at the BUHS Gym. On Feb. 26, Brattleboro lost to Burr & Burton in Manchester, 42-38. Taylor Bird led all scorers with 15.
Despite ending the season with two losses, the 8-12 Colonels picked up the No. 10 seed in Division I and a trip to Rutland to face the seventh-seeded Raiders in the first round on March 5.
• Bellows Falls finished their regular season with a 4-16 record. They got the 15th seed in Division II, and like the BF boys, they too will end up with a bus ride to East Montpelier to take on second-seeded U-32 in the first round on March 6 at 7 p.m.
• Champlain Valley swept the boys’ and girls’ Division I state championship on Feb. 26 at Prospect Mountain in Woodford with dominant performances in the classic event. Both teams placed four racers in the top 10 in the individual races, and both won the relay events.
The Brattleboro boys finished fifth overall. The Brattleboro girls did not have enough skiers to register a team score.
In the girls 5K classic, Brattleboro’s Hallie Lange came in fourth in 18 minutes, 49 seconds, 44 seconds behind winner Taylor Spillane of Champlain Valley (18:04.7). Rutland’s Chloe Levins was second in 18:26.8 and Autumn Eastman of CVU was third in 18:38.8. The Colonel girls didn’t have enough skiers for the relay.
In the boys 5K classic, Graham Glennon was the only Brattleboro skier in the top 10, he was 10th in 17:09.8. The race was won by Isaac Wright of Rutland in 15:48.8.
The freestyle portion of the state championships was held on Feb. 21 in Craftsbury.
Lange won the 5K girls’ freestyle individual race for the second straight year in 16:33, followed by Spillane (16:59), Eastman (17:00), Levins (17:07), and Mount Mansfield’s Annavitte Rand (17:19). Linnea Jahn came in 24th and Catey Yost gamely finished 73rd in her first varsity race.
Glennon finished 10th in the boys’ freestyle, and joined with Austin Lester, Oliver Pomazzi and Declan King in the 4 X 2.5K relay for a fifth place finish.