Brattleboro’s Andy Cay celebrates after scoring in the second period of their playoff game against Mount Mansfield on Feb. 28 at Withington Rink. Mount Mansfield went on to win the game, 5-2.
Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons
Brattleboro’s Andy Cay celebrates after scoring in the second period of their playoff game against Mount Mansfield on Feb. 28 at Withington Rink. Mount Mansfield went on to win the game, 5-2.

Bears fall short in bid for another state bowling title

The Brattleboro bowling team was unable to repeat as state bowling champions, as the third-seeded Bears were defeated by No. 2 South Burlington, 4-2, in the quarterfinal round of the state championship tournament on March 2 at Spare Time Lanes in Colchester.

While bowlers Thomas Bell, Charlie Forthofer, Austin Pinette, and Alyssa St. Louis all competed in the individual state tournament on Feb. 24 and got a taste of the high pressure that comes with going against the top bowlers in the state, Bears coach Will Bassett said the Baker format used in the team tournament is entirely different.

The Baker format has five bowlers each bowling two frames of a game. During the regular season, it is used at the end of matches to decide which team can win a best-of-three series. In the state tournament, it's best-of-seven, which puts an emphasis on staying focused through a long day of bowling. Last year, for example, it took 20 games for Brattleboro to win its title.

Bassett said Bell, this season's state individual champion, along with Forthofer, Pinnette, St. Louis, and Cayden Gilson were the starters, with Nick Carnes, and Taylor Jillson used as substitutes throughout the matches

Against South Burlington, Bassett said Brattleboro lost its first two quarterfinal matches, 160-166 and147-178. The Bears then won their next two matches 178-168 and 215-119, but lost the next two, 147-192 and 119-182.

Randolph, which was the top ranked team in Vermont for most of the season, swept South Burlington in the finals, winning by scores of 168-163, 194-163, 215-124, and 202-154 to capture their first state bowling title.

Bell and Forthofer were the only bowlers who returned from last year's championship team to bowl this season, but the experience that the younger bowlers received will only help for the 2024-25 season.

Bears defeated in boys' hockey playoffs

• On a dark and stormy night, Withington Rink was packed on Feb. 28 to see the fourth-seeded Brattleboro Bears take on the fifth-seeded Mt. Mansfield Cougars in a Division I quarterfinal. But being on home ice in front of hundreds of raucous supporters wasn't enough as the Bears gave up five unanswered goals and lost to the Cougars, 5-2.

The first period was scoreless, thanks to great goaltending by Brattleboro's James Fagley and Mt. Mansfield's Lucas Parisi. The Bears then took a 1-0 lead with 8:04 left in the second period on a goal from Andy Cay, with Henry Schwartz and Evan Wright credited with assists.

Unfortunately, the joy of that goal lasted just six seconds. That's how long it took for Mt. Mansfield's Owen Labor to score the equalizer, an unassisted goal that came immediately after the faceoff that followed Cay's goal.

The Bears tried to regain the lead, but Mt. Mansfield's Alexandre Romanko scored a pair of goals to help his team seize the momentum. The go-ahead goal came with 4:14 left in the second period, assisted by Owen Jones. Romanko's second tally came with 45.3 seconds to go, assisted by Jones and Garret Carter.

Trailing 3-1 heading into the final period, the Bears still had a chance, but Jones snuffed it out with a goal just 16 seconds after the opening face-off of the period. Romanko and Carter assisted on the goal. Carter then got the Cougars' fifth unanswered goal with 12:18 to play, assisted by Finn Heney and Gavin Cowan.

Wright scored the Bears' second goal with 12:05 left, assisted by Cay and Alex Dick, but it was too little, too late. The remainder of the game saw the Bears kill off four penalties as their frustration grew as the clock ticked down to the end of their season. Fagley finished with 33 saves, while Parisi made 16 saves. The Cougars did not get whistled for a penalty, while Brattleboro had a total of five.

It was a frustrating loss, but it doesn't diminish the work the Bears did to get into the position of having a home playoff game. Shorthanded and inexperienced, Bears head coach Eric Libardoni and his staff did a heroic job getting the team focused and playing hard in the second half of the season after a 1-5-1 start. Libardoni's coaching peers recognized that accomplishment by naming him the Division II Coach of the Year.

Wright was named as the Division II Player of the Year, and defensemen Ryan Lonergan (third team) and Will Miskovich (honorable mention) were also honored. Even though Brattleboro was in the Division I tournament, they mostly played Division II teams, hence the awards for the Bears in that division.

The 11-7-3 Bears will lose just three players to graduation - Fagley, Miskovich, and forward Dylan Sparks. If the core of this season's team, led by juniors Wright and Cay, return for next season, Brattleboro will have a solid foundation for future success on the ice.

Girls' basketball playoffs

• Bellows Falls came oh-so-close to a trip to the Barre Auditorium, but Sierra Derby scored with two seconds left in regulation to give the third-seeded Richford Rockets a 40-38 win over the sixth-seeded Terriers in a Division III quarterfinal game on March 2.

Both teams showed great intensity on defense as the first quarter ended in an 8-8 tie. The Rockets then opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run and took a 22-15 lead into halftime.

BF kept up the defensive pressure in the third quarter and trimmed the Rockets' lead to 28-22 heading into the fourth. A pair of three-pointers by Abby Nystrom gave the Terriers their first lead in the game, 35-33, midway through the fourth quarter, but a Derby basket tied the game with two minutes to play. The teams took turns holding the lead until Derby's game-winning basket settled the matter.

Richford was led by Kyrielle Deuso with 21 points and Derby with 13. Nystrom led Bellows Falls with 16 points and Delaney Lockerby added 11 points.

BF got its trip to Richford thanks to a 41-32 win over No. 11 Green Mountain in a first-round game on Feb. 28 at Holland Gymnasium. Defense was the key to the win, along with solid play by Nystrom and Laura Kamel on offense. The Terriers led 22-14 at the half and started the third quarter with a 12-1 run to quash any hopes of a GM rally. Kamel led the Terriers with 15 points, while Nystrom added 10 to give BF its first playoff win since 2020.

The Terriers finished their first season with head coach James Pecsok with a 15-7 record. BF will lose Lockerby, Eryn Ross, Riley Haskell, Tela Harty, and Aliyah Farmer to graduation.

• Brattleboro won six of their last nine regular season games to finish with an 11-9 record, but it was not enough to ensure a home playoff game. As a result, the No. 9 Bears took the long bus ride to Jericho on Feb. 27 to face the No. 8 Mount Mansfield Cougars in a Division I first round game. The Cougars also finished with an 11-9 record, but got the higher seed and the home game based on the strength of their schedule. That certainly was a factor in the Cougars' 70-39 victory.

The teams were tied 12-12 at the end of the first quarter, but Mount Mansfield steadily built up their lead and were up 27-20 at halftime. The Cougars then put the game out of reach in the third quarter by outscoring the Bears, 19-7.

Meghan Thompson scored 27 points and had five steals to lead the Cougars. Brianna Browner added 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds and Maysa Long had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Brattleboro's offense was held in check, with Kate Pattison scoring 11 points and Reece Croutworst and Mallory Newton each scoring 10 points.

The Bears will lose Pattison, Newton, Montana Frehsee, Aliza Speno, and Rosalie Smith to graduation, but first-year coach Karen Henry will have the guard tandem of Croutworst and Abby Henry and a strong nucleus of young players for her second season.

• Seventh-seeded Leland & Gray cleared its first hurdle in the Division IV playoffs with a 57-38 win over the No. 10 Proctor Phantoms in a first-round game in Townshend on Feb. 28.

Despite a 20-point effort by senior Isabel Greb, the Rebels had a balanced scoring attack with eight different players getting points. Maggie Parker and Sam Morse led the way with 10 points each, while Mary Sanderson and Abigail Emerson added nine and six points, respectively.

The victory gave the Rebels a trip to West Rutland to take on the second-seeded Golden Horde in the quarterfinals on March 1. The Horde punched their ticket for their 17th straight appearance in the semifinals at the Barre Auditorium with a 71-27 rout of the Rebels.

West Rutland's Peyton Guay had 27 points, 13 rebounds, and seven steals, while Kennah Wright-Chapman scored 16 points and Hayley Raiche had nine points, nine rebounds, and four steals. The Horde raced out to 23-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Rebels steadied themselves defensively and held the Horde to just 14 points in the second quarter, but West Rutland was even better on defense as they held a 37-10 lead at halftime. The Rebels simply could not deal with the Horde's scoring depth, or their press defense.

Parker led the Rebels with 10 points as Leland & Gray finished the season at 11-12. They will lose Parker, Sanderson, and Kianelise Pena to graduation, but the Rebels have Morse and Emerson coming back to lead the way next season.

• Third-seeded Arlington took care of No. 14 Twin Valley, 43-22, in their Division IV first-round game on Feb. 28. The Wildcats finished their season with a 2-19 record, and will have this season's entire roster returning for next season.

Bears do well in state Nordic meets

• The Brattleboro boys finished fourth, while the girls took fifth place in the Division I state Nordic skiing championships last week.

In the freestyle event on Feb. 27 at at Rikert Outdoor Center in Ripton, Katherine Normandeau led the Brattleboro girls with a 19th place finish in 25 minutes, 38 seconds. Maeve Bald was 26th in 26.40.5, followed by Maayan Coleman (34th, 28:02.0), Priya Kitzmiller (41st (29.28.6), and Addison DeVault (53rd, 32:03.1). The relay team of Normandeau, Bald, Coleman, and Kitzmiller finished sixth in 56:34.4.

The Brattleboro boys were led by Gabriele Jeppesen-Belleci (11th, 21:15.4), Nico Conathan-Leach (14th, 22:18.1), Willow Sharma (17th, 22:28.1), Oliver Herrick (23rd, 23:00.2), Desmond Longsmith (34th, 24:18.1), Eben Wagner (41st, 24:59.1), and Galen Fogerty (65th, 27:26.6). The relay team of Jeppesen-Belleci, Herrick, Sharma, and Conathan-Leach finished fourth in 41:49.5.

In the classic races on March 1 at Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Normandeau finished 19th in 25:38.0, followed by Bald (25th, 26:40.5), Coleman (28:02.0), Kitzmiller (39th, 29:28.6), and DeVault (50th, 32:01.1). The relay team of Normandeau, Bald, Coleman, and Kitzmiller finished sixth in 56:34.4.

Jeppesen-Belleci led the Brattleboro boys with an 11th place finish in 21:15.4. Conathan-Leach was 14th in 22:18.1, followed by Sharma (17th, 22:28.1), Herrick (23rd, 23:00.2), Longsmith (32nd, 24:18.1), Wagner (37th, 24:59), and Fogarty (58th, 27:26.6). The relay team of Jeppesen-Belleci, Herrick, Sharma, and Conathan-Leach finished fourth in 41:49.5.

Champlain Valley won the Division I girls' championship, while Mount Mansfield was the boys' Division I champion.

Brattleboro Little League to hold sign-ups for 2024 season

• Brattleboro Little League will hold registration for the 2024 season on March 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21, from 4 to 6 p.m. each day, at American Legion Post 5 on Linden Street.

Registration is open to boys and girls from the following towns: Brattleboro, Guilford, Vernon, Putney, Dummerston, Newfane, Townshend, Marlboro, Dover, Wilmington, Wardsboro, and Halifax, as well as Chesterfield, Spofford and Hinsdale, New Hampshire. The registration fee is $70, and scholarships are available.

Senior bowling roundup

• Week 9 of the winter/spring season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl on Feb. 29 saw first place High Rollers (29-11) go 0-5 yet still maintain a five-game lead on Four Seasons (24-21), which went 5-0 to move into second place. There is a three-way tie for third between Good Times, Stepping Stones II, and Stayin' Alive (all 23-22), followed by Four Pins (18-27), Hairiers (17-28), and Slow Movers (11-34).

Debbie Rittenhour had the women's high handicap game (233) and series (663), while John Walker had the men's high handicap game (256) and Stan Kolpa had the high handicap series (678). Stayin' Alive had the high team handicap game (863) and series (2,516).

Walker had the men's high scratch series (618) and game (244). Peter Deyo had a 555 series with a 198 game, Jerry Dunham had a 521 series with a 191 game, and Wayne Randall had a 510 series. Robert Rigby had a 507 series with a 212 game, Rick Westcott had a 506 series, Warren Corriveau Sr. had a 503 series, Fred Ashworth had a 501 series with a 193 game, and Gary Montgomery had a 211 game.

Diane Cooke had the women's high scratch series (458) and game (169). She also had a 161 game. Debbie Kolpa rolled a 162 game.

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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