Can Chieftains rebound from slump?

James Anderson is becoming a complete player as a freshman for the Green Mountain Boys basketball team. Anderson has three years of eligibility remaining and will be built around for the future.
Photo by Doug MacPhee

CHESTER, Vt. – Brian Rappanotti enjoyed the start of this basketball season. His Chieftains jumped out to a 6-3 record and were looking forward to a twelve to fourteen win season and a first round home play-off game. Then somehow, a blizzard of loses, derailed that plan and now the bus is on the road to Lamoille with a play-off game with Peoples.

Rappanotti had a blend of seniors and youngsters that were expected to grow and mature together and for one reason or another, this just didn’t happen. A 3-8 record down the stretch left everyone shaking their heads with a bus trip to stay alive.

“They are young, hopefully, that can be an advantage of some sort,” Rapanotti said when talking about Peoples Academy, who are the Chieftains first round play-off opponent. Peoples finished 8-12, one game better than Green Mountain’s 9-11, but it was good enough to accumulate more seeding points to finish ahead of the Chieftains and earn the home court. Since PA does not have a VPA approved home court, the game was played at Lamoille Union High School on Tuesday evening.

“We just haven’t played the way we are capable of lately. It seems one thing or another goes wrong. It would be nice to get the breaks in this one and start something,” Rappanotti mentioned.

This is the fourth year in a row, GM has finished in the 7th through 10th play-off slots, always setting the Chieftains up to meet one of the top two seeds in the quarterfinal with a victory.

Since the 6-3 start the early momentum and consistency earned, has all but evaporated. A 39-37 squeaker over Poultney in Nason Gym allowed the team to still believe they were headed in the right direction because of the victory in the next contest. Mack Walton with 15 led the way offensively against the Blue Devils, while Ian Kehoe and James Anderson added 9 in the Blue success. The Chieftains were on their way to success in the next game against Long Trail before they gave away a large lead. Kehoe with 14 and Anderson with 12 paced the point parade. GM went back to their winning ways versus Bellows Falls 58-46 with Kehoe with 14 and Walton and Anderson with 13 and 9 pacing the effort,

Then all of a sudden, a loss to Windsor began a slide in the opposite direction, which the team never really recovered from. Windsor prevailed as expected 66-46 and Anderson with 16 and Walton with 14 were high scorers.

“I need the team to show up for thirty-two minutes,” were the words spoken by Rappanotto after a big 62-50 loss to Arlington. Walton with 18 and Anderson with 11 provided offensive support.

The team received a repave, following a 60-34 thumping over Leland + Gray. Balanced scoring highlighted the victory with Kehoe’s 16 the focal point, followed by 12 by Anderson and 10 each by Ryan McSally and Walton.

A trip to Twin Valley arrived at the wrong time and ended in a 61-49 loss to emphasize to one and all that competing now is to be a priority. Kehoe and McSally had good games with 19 and 11, but enough offense could not be generated.

Two games remained with Bellows Falls and West Rutland and before they were played, the thought around the Chieftain team was two wins might get a game on home court.

“It was more about how good they played, than about what we did,” Rappanotti offered following a 67-45 loss to the Terriers. The coach went on to say, “they have gotten a lot better and we haven’t since the first game and they really shot well, everything went in and they took it to us.” Walton had 17 and Kehoe 12 in the loss.

“We dug a hole,” was the way Rappanotti looks at the final game at West Rutland, a 45-43 loss, when “we got down by 18 and then had a chance to tie it at the end. Hopefully we can bring things back together versus Peoples.”

That would be nice.

Mack Walton scoring here is a player who is going to be missed. He is a senior leader in every regard on the Green Mountain basketball team who faces Peoples Academy in the Vermont Division III Boys Basketball Tournament.
Photo by Doug MacPhee

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