Brattleboro’s Montana Frehsee (24) pulls down a rebound in front of Windsor defenders Audrey Rupp, center, and Sophia Rockwood, right, during the second half of their game on Feb. 9 at the BUHS gym.
Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons
Brattleboro’s Montana Frehsee (24) pulls down a rebound in front of Windsor defenders Audrey Rupp, center, and Sophia Rockwood, right, during the second half of their game on Feb. 9 at the BUHS gym.

Bears rally to beat Windsor on Senior Night, 32-31

The Windsor Yellowjackets came into the BUHS gym on Feb. 8 with a 12-3 record and ranked No. 2 in Vermont Division III girls' basketball. Windsor have averaged about 60 points per game and have more than held their own against upper division teams.

However, never underestimate the power of a team that is on a hot streak and peaking at the right moment.

The Brattleboro Bears recovered from their 36-29 loss to Bellows Falls on Jan. 25 with three straight wins over Fair Haven, Mount Anthony, and Springfield. With the extra boost of a loud and passionate Senior Night crowd behind them, the Bears rallied from a six-point deficit midway through the final quarter to pull out a 32-31 win.

Defense and rebounding were the keys to the Bears' victory. Head coach Karen Henry said a big reason why Brattleboro suffered a 47-36 road loss to Windsor on Jan. 15 was the Jacks' dominance on the boards.

In the rematch, Brattleboro racked up a 31-26 advantage in rebounding as Reese Croutworst and Mallory Newton both pulled down seven rebounds, Kate Pattison had six, Montana Frehsee had five, and Abby Henry had four. The Bears' defense also held Windsor's top two scorers, Audrey Rupp and Sydney Perry, to just 10 points each.

"We've been working on boxing out," said Henry. "We lost the last game because we got out-rebounded. That was the big focus. We needed to rebound the basketball."

But the Bears' secret weapon has been their confidence, which Henry said has been growing ever since the loss to Bellows Falls. So when Windsor tied the game, 20-20, with about two minutes left in the third quarter, and finished with a 6-1 burst to take a 26-21 lead in the fourth, the Bears were unfazed.

"We knew they were going to do that," said Henry. "We also knew that we could contain it long enough and that we have enough scorers and enough offensive power to overcome a little run. I was really proud of us for hanging on and being able to come back the way we did. It says a lot about our composure and about our confidence."

The last two minutes of the game illustrated Henry's point. Frehsee connected on a 15-footer to cut the Jacks' lead to 29-27. Pattison then scored the go-ahead basket when she nailed a long three-point shot in front of the Bears' bench with 37.8 seconds to play to send the crowd into a frenzy. But Windsor responded with a pair of free throws with 11.6 seconds left to retake the lead.

Croutworst then saved the day when she was fouled while driving toward the Windsor basket with 4.3 seconds remaining. She calmly sank both her free throws to seal the Bears' fourth straight victory.

"She had a little bit of rough game earlier on, and I just pulled her aside [after the game] and I said 'I know you struggled a little bit, kiddo, but when it counts, you were there. You were focused and that's what good athletes do,'" Henry said.

Pattison was the Bears' high scorer with 10 points, while Croutworst and Henry added eight and seven points, respectively.

The high from the Windsor win carried over into the Bears' 50-28 loss to the Champlain Valley Redhawks, the defending Division I champions, on Feb. 10 in Hinesburg. While the Bears lost, they made the Redhawks work for the win. Brattleboro trailed the Redhawks 14-13 at the half and 27-20 after three quarters before Champlain Valley finally pulled away with a 23-8 burst in the fourth quarter.

Croutworst led the Bears with 13 points, while no Redhawks player scored in double figures. Merrill Jacobs had 8 points and 7 rebounds. Samara Ashooh had 7 points and 10 rebounds, and Elise Berger had 7 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals for Champlain Valley.

At 9-7 with four games left in the regular season, the Bears still have a shot at having a home game to start the Division I playoffs.

Boys' basketball

• Brattleboro kept it close for eight minutes, but Rutland dominated the other 24 minutes of the game and rolled to 72-55 win on Feb. 9 at the BUHS gym.

The Bears jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first four minutes, and trailed Rutland, the No. 4 team in Division I, by just a point, 16-15, at the end of the first quarter. It was Rutland after that, as they outscored Brattleboro, 27-5, in the second quarter to take a 43-20 halftime lead. The Bears never recovered as Rutland's full court pressure defense forced numerous turnovers.

Cellan Wood led Rutland with 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Will Fuller had 16 points and four rebounds, while Ethan Whalen added nine points on three three-pointers. Jack Cady, starting in place of the injured Keagan Systo, led the Bears with 19 points. John Satterfield added 10 points as the Bears slid to 6-11 on the season.

• On Feb. 6, Brattleboro got a 61-56 road win over Bellows Falls. Johnathan Haskins led the Bears with 16 points and 14 rebounds - the third straight game that Haskins was in double-digits in rebounding. Systo also scored 16 points, while Jackson Emery and Karson Elliott contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.

BF's Colby Dearborn led all scorers with 27 points. Three nights later, the Terriers' losing streak was extended to five games with a 87-37 road loss to Hartford. BF entered the final week of the regular season with a 6-12 record.

• Leland & Gray snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 56-55 win over Green Mountain on Feb. 9 in Townshend to improve the Rebels' record to 3-15.

• Twin Valley's dynamic duo of Brayden Brown and Noah Dornburgh provided nearly all the offense as the Wildcats took care of Mill River, 55-41, in Whitingham on Feb. 9. Brown led all scorers with 27 points, while Dornburgh added 21 points. Together with a 57-54 loss to Rivendell on Feb. 6, the Wildcats' record now stands at 11-7.

Girls' basketball

• Bellows Falls got 15 points apiece from Abby Nystrom and Delaney Lockerby as the Terriers defeated Green Mountain, 63-42, on Feb. 8 in Chester. The Terriers led by 12 at the half and turned away an attempted rally by GM to get the win. Colie Roby led Green Mountain with 13 points.

• Leland & Gray headed into the last two weeks of the regular season riding a five-game winning streak. The Rebels' fifth straight win was a 37-31 victory over Rivendell on Feb. 8 in Townshend to improve to 9-8.

• Twin Valley may be winless at 0-15, but the Wildcats are showing plenty of fight in every game. Against visiting Proctor on Feb. 5, the Wildcats lost 38-28. It took a career-best night from Proctor's Makayla French, who scored 18 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, to beat Twin Valley as Isabel Greb, the Phantoms' top scorer, got into foul trouble and was held to nine points.

On Feb. 8 in Rutland, the Wildcats lost to Mount St. Joseph, 49-22. A strong first half by MSJ put the game away early, and Twin Valley could not overcome the big deficit. There were some good performances for Twin Valley as junior Alanna Bevilacqua, one of Twin Valley's co-captains, had 12 points, 11 rebounds, five steals, and two blocks. Eighth-grader Kate Oyer had five points, nine rebounds, and four blocks, while co-captain Bianca Place had five points and five steals.

Ice hockey

• Andy Cay had a pair of goals, Evan Wright had a goal and two assists, and Henry Schwartz and Will MacIntosh each added a goal as the Brattleboro boys defeated Burlington, 5-2, on Feb. 7 at Withington Rink. Together with a 7-5 win at St. Johnsbury on Feb.10, the Bears improved to 8-6-3 on the season.

• The Brattleboro girls fell to 1-14 after a 7-0 loss to Rice at Withington Rink on Feb. 7. Emery Rasco had three goals to lead Rice as goalie Tayton Barrett made 15 saves to the earn the shutout victory.

Nordic skiing

• The Brattleboro girls finished second, while the boys took third in the classical portion of the Southern Vermont League Nordic championships on Feb, 7 at Wild Wings Ski Touring Center in Peru.

In the girls' race, Mount Anthony had the fastest individual times as Eden White (14 minutes, 37 seconds) came in first and her sister Tanis White was close behind in 14:59, and teammate Roey Rella-Neill was fourth in 15:30. But those times didn't count toward a team score, since the Patriots were a skier short of having a full complement of four.

Woodstock had enough skiers and Isabel Cellini led the Wasps with a third place finish in 15:30, followed by teammates Priscilla Richardson (15:43, fifth), Ada Mahood (16:34, eighth), and Schuyler Hagge (16:39, ninth) to take first place in team scoring.

Brattleboro finished second on the strength of Katherine Normandeau, who finished sixth in 15:53, and solid performances by teammates Maeve Bald (17:05, 11th), Maayan Coleman (17:21, 12th) and Myra McNaughton (18:58, 13th).

The boys' race was as close as can be with Woodstock edging Mount Anthony, 20-21. Luke Rizio led the Patriots with a first place time of 11:39, with Woodstock's James Underwood finishing second in 11:40.

Brattleboro finished third with 40, followed by Burr & Burton with 72 points. The Bears had three skiers in the top 10: Willow Sharma (13:09, seventh), Gabriele Jeppesen-Belleci (13:10, eighth), with Nico Conathan-Leach (14:51, 10th) and Oliver Herrick (15th, 14:20) rounding out the Brattleboro scoring.

The SVL championships are set to continue on Feb. 14 with the skate race at the Marlboro Nordic Ski Club.

Junior jumpers fare well at Salisbury event

• The Harris Hill Nordic Junior Jumping Team has had a good winter of competition, and one noteworthy performance came on Feb. 2-4 during the 98th annual Salisbury (Conn.) Winter Sports Association's Jumpfest.

Spencer Jones competed on Salisbury's 65-meter hill in two competitions. On Feb. 3, Jones placed third in the U-16 group in the Jumpfest competition with jumps of 41 and 39 meters. The next day, competing in the Eastern Championships among a larger field of athletes, Jones finished in seventh place with jumps of 34.5 and 34 meters. He also was first in the U-14 class on the 30-meter hill.

Those performances helped land Jones a spot on the U.S. Junior National Ski Jumping Team, and a chance to compete in the Junior Nationals in Anchorage, Alaska from Feb. 27 to March 2.

"This winter has not allowed for a lot of training, but Spencer has progressed exponentially in a short time," Harris Hill Junior Jumper coach Todd Einig said in an email to The Commons.

Other Harris Jill Jumpers who excelled at Salisbury included Maple Billings, who was first in the U-10 class on the 20-meter hill, and Myles Billings, who was second in the U-12 class on the 20-meter hill. Two Brattleboro jumpers who competed with the Ford Sayre team - Ava Joyal and Wes Leonard - also did well on the 20-meter jump as Joyal was second in the girls' U-12 class while Leonard was third in the Open class.

Senior bowling roundup

• Week 6 of the winter/spring season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl on Feb. 8 was cancelled due to a power outage on Putney Road. League Secretary Nancy Dalzell says the league will resume play on Feb. 15.

On a personal note…

• Thirty-five years ago this week, I started my first week on the job as a sports reporter and photographer for the Brattleboro Reformer.

There have been many twists and turns in my career since landing in Brattleboro in 1989, but I can say that the most rewarding part of these last 35 years have been the friendships made during my stints covering high school sports in Vermont.

Covering local sports is not my primary job here at The Commons. I like to say it's my way of playing hooky from all the other responsibilities I have in helping to put this paper together each week. But I certainly have more fun doing this than any of my other jobs, and that is due to the athletes, the coaches, and their families I've spent time with over the years.

So, thank you all for the many kindnesses you have shown me over the years. May we keep seeing each other in the gyms, the diamonds, and the playing fields of Windham County for years to come.

Randolph T. Holhut, deputy editor of this newspaper, has written this column since 2010 and has covered sports in Windham County since the 1980s. Readers can send him sports information at [email protected].

This Sports column by Randolph T. Holhut was written for The Commons.

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