Rebels fall in Division III semifinals to Winooski

Going to “The Aud” is the goal for every small town high school basketball player in Vermont.

For the second-seeded Leland & Gray Rebels, getting a chance to play a Division III semifinal game at Barre Auditorium was the culmination of a dream.

But as senior guard Colin Nystrom said after the Rebels beat Lake Region on March 11, they weren't going to let the bright lights distract them. After all, many of the players on the basketball team - including Nystrom - know what it's like to win a state championship, having done so in baseball last June and in soccer last November.

Despite the Rebels' experience with playoff pressure, it wasn't enough as they were beaten, 49-40, by the No. 3 Winooski Spartans last Thursday.

It was a close game in the first half, but the shots weren't falling for the Rebels. Nonetheless, they only trailed Winooski 20-17 at the half.

The Spartans led by as much as 12 (41-29) early in the fourth quarter, but then the Rebels ratcheted up the defense and held Winooski to a single field goal in the last 6:48 of the game.

The Rebels went on an 11-0 run led by their senior guards. Colin Nystrom hit a three-pointer and Matt Bizon sank a pair of jumpers as Winooski's lead dwindled to 41-40 with just 2:09 to play.

But the Rebels' momentum was then disrupted. The game was stopped for 10 minutes when Nystrom's nose was bloodied, enough so that the floor needed to be mopped up. Winooski used the break to regroup.

Devin Rollins, the game's high scorer with 22 points, scored on a breakaway layup when play resumed and drained 4 free throws in the final two minutes to send the Spartans to the title game.

Nystrom led the Rebels with 11 points, and Bizon and sophomore forward Drew Barnum each added 9.

It was a great season for first-year coach Phil Davis, whose team finished with a 17-5 record. He coached most of the members of this season's team at the junior high and junior varsity level, and despite losing Nystrom, Bizon, Josh Fontaine and Noah Chapin to graduation, next year's team is poised for excellence.

Now, the focus in Townshend shifts to winning a fourth-straight Division III baseball title. The spring season opened on March 21, and the Rebels are scheduled to open at home against Black River on April 4.

All-Stars play in Windsor

• The champions in Vermont boys' and girls' basketball have been crowned, but there is still some more basketball to be played.

The Vermont Basketball Coaches Association (VCBA) presents its annual Senior All-Star Game on Saturday, March 26, at Windsor High School. The girls' Division III-IV game is at 11 a.m., followed by the boys' Division III-IV game at 1 p.m., the girls' Division I-II game at 3 p.m., and the boys' Division I-II game at 5 p.m.

Leland & Gray's senior quartet of Bizon, Chapin, Fontaine, and Nystrom will be on the South's Division III-IV squad, while Brattleboro guard Travis Elliott-Knaggs will be on the South's Division I-II squad.

Getting selected as all-stars was just the latest set of honors for the Leland & Gray players. Fontaine and Bizon were recently named to the Marble Valley League's boys' Division III first-team all-stars, while Chapin and Nystrom were named to the second team.

Elliott-Knaggs and junior forward Tommy Heydinger were Brattleboro's representatives on the MVL Division I all-star team. Also, Brattleboro junior forward Travis Beeman-Nesbitt made the VCBA's Dream Dozen team, as one of the top underclassmen in the state.

Leland & Gray is well represented in the girls' Division III-IV game. Rebels coach Greg Morrow will coach the South team, and his top seniors, guard Aly Marcucci and forward Bethany Robinson, will join him.

Three Twin Valley players will joined the Rebel contingent on the South squad - forward Sam Bernard and guards Kylie-blu and Bryer-lyn Crawford.

The lone Brattleboro representative on the South's girls' Division I-II team is forward Erin LeBlanc. She and fellow senior Taylor Kerylow were both second-team selections on the MVL Division I all-star team.

Bellows Falls won't have a player on the floor for the games, but girls' coach Justin Aube will be assisting Otter Valley's Ray Counter in leading the Division I-II South team.

In addition to a great day of basketball featuring the top players in Vermont, the VCBA will also be inducting its newest class of coaches to its Hall of Fame and honoring other players and coaches with awards and scholarships. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

CRVBL gears up for 10th season

• The Connecticut River Valley Baseball League (CRVBL) is gearing up for its 10th season of local amateur hardball. Two new New Hampshire teams, the Claremont Cardinals and Keene Black Dawgs, and one former member, the Saxtons River Pirates, will join the Brattleboro River Rats, Chester Pirates, and Putney Fossils to play a 15-game regular season schedule.

Brattleboro, Keene, Putney, and Saxtons River will play Saturday games in April and early May against Landmark College and the league will hold an All Star game on July 4 at Vermont Academy in Saxtons River and a double-elimination playoff tournament the weekend of Aug. 12-14.

Founded by Richard Bissell and Jim Austin in 2002, CRVBL is an adult, amateur hardball league. Individuals must be 20 years of age to play, 25 to catch, and 30 or over to pitch. Several teams still have roster openings, and the league is always looking for local sponsors. For more information, visit

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