The winter high school sports season is the longest of the three seasons, stretching from early December to early March. It is also the season that has the least time to prepare. Most local student-athletes barely had two weeks to recover from the rigors of the fall soccer, field hockey, football, and cross-country seasons before heading back into the gym to prepare for the winter season of basketball, ice hockey, and Nordic skiing.
That was the lament of Brattleboro coach Chris Worden and Leland & Gray coach Terry Merrow about the quick turnaround between the fall and winter seasons as their girls' basketball teams split their two games in the Leland & Gray Tip-off Tournament on Dec. 9 and 10 in Townshend.
“We didn't have enough time to prepare,” said Worden. “Ten practices isn't a lot, especially with seven new players,” referring to what happened in the Colonels' 48-26 loss to the Burr & Burton Bulldogs in the opening game of the tourney on Dec. 9.
Two of those new players are ninth-graders Reese Croutworst and Abby Henry. The young guards showed they were more than ready for significant minutes with the varsity. Croutworst scored a team-high seven points against the Bulldogs, while Henry scored all five of her points in the third quarter.
“They are pretty talented for freshmen,” said Worden. “They are both very good athletes. They're fast, they handle the ball well, and they're good shooters.”
Unfortunately, while the Colonels have decent outside shooters, they still are a work in progress when it comes to rebounding and inside scoring. The Bulldogs exploited their size advantage in taking an 18-10 lead after one quarter and a 30-15 lead at the half.
• Against the Arlington Eagles in the tourney's consolation game on Dec. 10, Brattleboro took an 11-3 lead after one quarter, but struggled to put the Eagles away in a 51-42 win that was a definite grind for the Colonels.
Arlington cut Brattleboro's lead down to 16-12 with 3:29 left in the second quarter, and again got that close in the early in the third quarter before the Colonels managed to keep the Eagles at bay for the remainder of the game.
Junior guard Kaitlyn Pattison was a big reason why the Colonels pulled out the win, with a team-high 15 points, including three three-pointers. Croutworst and Henry contributed 12 and eight points, respectively, and junior forward Mallory Newton added three baskets from inside. Julia Decker led the Eagles with 15 points.
• In their first game in the tournament on Dec. 9, Leland & Gray built up a 21-11 lead against Arlington, then watched that lead vanish before righting the ship for a 35-27 win.
Merrow said the key to the win was successfully executing their full-court press defense. “I think the press helps the girls keep their intensity up,” he said. “If we play good defense, we get better shots on offense.”
When the Rebels got away from that formula in the third quarter, that allowed Arlington to get back into the game. An 11-2 run by the Eagles cut the Rebels' lead to 23-22 with 3:14 left in the third, but Arlington would get no closer.
Junior forward Maggie Parker led the Rebels with eight points, four steals, and two blocked shots. Sophomore guard Abigail Emerson also scored eight points and Samantha Morse and Mary Sanderson each added seven points. Sidney Herrington led Arlington with 16 points.
• Burr & Burton defeated the Rebels, 43-29, in the tourney's championship game on Dec. 10. The Bulldogs led from start to finish as Leland & Gray struggled on offense.
Parker led the Rebels with 12 points, while Decker and Ainerose Souza scored 12 and 14 points, respectively for Burr & Burton.
Burr & Burton forward Josie Powers was named the tourney's Most Valuable Player. Selected to the All-Tourney Team were Decker, Pattison, Parker, Arlington's Lily Hosley, and Leland & Gray's Hannah Greenwood.
• Twin Valley opened its season with a pair of losses in the Bob Abrahamson Tournament on Dec. 9 and 10 in Proctor.
In the tourney opener on Dec. 9, the Wildcats were edged by the Poultney Blue Devils, 39-38. Twin Valley's Noah Dornburgh led all scorers with 20 points and Liam Wendel added 10 points, while Marcus Lewis and Brooks Filskov led the Blue Devils with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Twin Valley lost the Dec. 10 consolation game to the Proctor Phantoms, 56-39. The Phantoms raced out to a 23-5 lead after one quarter and led 35-20 at halftime. Carter Crossmon scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the first half to lead Proctor. Wendel led the Wildcats with 13 points while Caleb Dupuis added 10 points and Brian Sullivan chipped in eight points.
• Burr & Burton swept Brattleboro in a varsity doubleheader to open the season on Dec. 10 in Manchester.
The Colonel girls lost their game, 7-1, as Mai-Liis Edwards had two goals and an assist for the Bulldogs and Katie Brownlee added a pair of goals. Mia Paligo had a goal and three assists and Skylar Smith and Abby Kopeck each added a goal.
Skylar Marshall scored Brattleboro's only goal and goalie Angela Jobin made 26 saves.
The Colonel boys faced a similar fate as they lost to the Bulldogs, 6-1. Jack McCoy scored twice for Burr & Burton and Colin Brady, Brodie Smith, Adam Murnaghan, and Blake Bruce also scored. Goalie Michael Hornby made 38 saves to get the win.
Evan Wright got Brattleboro's only goal, and goalie Matthew Gordon-Macey made 16 saves.
• Third-seeded Brattleboro made it to the final round of the Holiday Classic at the Rutland Bowlerama on Dec. 10 before losing to fourth-seeded Randolph, 2-0.
Fair Haven, the top seed in the season-opening match, beat second-seeded Windsor in the first round, but got upset by Randolph in the second round.
The Colonels will host Hartford, Fair Haven, and Windsor in their first home match of the season this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Brattleboro Bowl.
Johnson again falls short in Frick Award balloting
• Once again, the late Ernie Johnson Sr. got passed over for the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award.
The Brattleboro native and longtime play-by-play announcer for the Atlanta Braves was in the running for the 2023 award. It went instead to Pat Hughes, who has been the Chicago Cubs radio play-by-play announcer for 27 seasons and, before there, spent 11 seasons in the booth with Bob Uecker broadcasting Milwaukee Brewers games.
The other finalists for the award were Dave Campbell, Joe Castiglione, Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Tom Hamilton, Jerry Howarth, Duane Kuiper, and Steve Stone.
The Frick Award recognizes the work of baseball broadcasters. The criteria for the award, according to the Hall of Fame, include the broadcaster's “commitment to excellence, quality of broadcasting capabilities, reverence within the game, popularity with fans, and recognition from peers.”
The 12 living Frick Award recipients - including Ken Harrelson, Marty Brennaman, Eric Nadel, Bob Costas, Jaime Jarrin, Tony Kubek, Al Michaels, Jon Miller, Dave Van Horne, and Uecker - and three broadcast historians/columnists made up the selection committee. They had some tough choices to make.
Having listened to his broadcasts over the past few years via the MLB.com audio stream, I would agree with the Frick committee that Hughes is a worthy choice, although Ernie's fans in Brattleboro would probably beg to differ.
Braves fans in Brattleboro got their fix watching games on cable TV called by Johnson, Skip Caray, and Pete Van Wieren during the 1980s. The Braves weren't very good in those years, but since their games were on TV almost every day of the season back then on Superstation WTBS, that trio made a lot of Braves fans out of baseball viewers around the country.
Local baseball historian Dana Sprague said a few weeks ago that it looked like Johnson - who called Braves games on TV and radio from 1962 to 1999 and helped created the vast Atlanta Braves radio network when the team moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966 - had a good chance of winning the 2023 Frick Award.
Johnson was on the Frick Award ballot in 2015 and 2020, and was one of the few announcers under consideration who spent their entire broadcast careers with one team. Under the Hall of Fame's current voting criteria, Johnson will not be on the ballot again until 2027. Maybe by then, Ernie will get his due.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 15 of the fall/winter season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League on Dec. 8 saw first place Keglers 4 (48-27) and second place Good Times (42-33) both a have a 4-1 week. The Strikers (38-37) are in third, followed by Trash-O-Matic (37.5-37.5), Lucky 7 (36-39), Split Happens (35.5-39.5), Old Farts (35-40), and Slow Movers (28-47).
Nancy Dalzell had the women's high handicap game (250), while Shirley Aiken had the high handicap series (660). Robert Rigby had the men's high handicap game (264) and series (682). Good Times had the high team handicap game (898), while Old Farts had the high handicap series (2,456).
In scratch scoring, Rigby led the men with a 682 series that featured games of 257, 204, and 200. Chuck Adams had a 629 series with games of 224, 204, and 203, while John Walker had a 598 series with games of 209, 203, and 186. Marty Adams had a 505 series with a 177 game.
Charlie Marchant had a 519 series with a 198 game, and Gary Montgomery and Fred Ashworth each had a 506 series. Other notable games included Duane Schillemat (205), Jerry Dunham (199), and Marty Adams (188).
Dalzell had the women's high scratch game (201), while Aiken had the high scratch series (510) with games of 188, 170, and 155. Debbie Kolpa had games of 162 and 156, Carol Gloski had games of 155 and 152, and Doris Lake rolled a 154.