REGION – Another year, another Fall Mountain girls’ team advancing further in the post season than any of our 12 area hoop teams. Another constant in life, just like taxes. This happens almost every year. This team is the cream of the crop.
Matthew Baird-Torney is at the helm this time around and wins over Campbell 61-24 and White Mountains 44-30 have the team set up for yet another season when one of the biggest doors to get through is the Conant Orioles. This time around the teams have split their two contests and didn’t meet a third time in a holiday tournament game.
Fall Mountain won the early meeting 53-50 and although Conant held serve at home 55-34, the Lady Wildcats were missing a couple of key contributors, but regardless only the third meeting counts now. That third meeting is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Southern New Hampshire University. This is Fall Mountain’s first trip there since 2016.
This is a young Fall Mountain team for the most part, but don’t tell them they might be still wet behind their ears. They earned their way to the big dance.
In the Campbell victory, Baird-Torney says, “We set the tone early with our press. We negated any of the advantages Campbell brought to the match up by generating turnovers and finishing some easy looks. Maybe our best defensive effort all season.”
Fall Mountain jumped out to a 20-3 lead and basically never looked back. Zoe Utton’s 24 points paced the effort and Avery Stwart added 21.
The White Mountains contest had a scary element in the early going. The visitors went out to a 12-3 lead at the start and although Baird-Torney’s crew had pulled within two at intermission (20-18), it took a defensive blanking of allowing just ten points in the second half to run away to victory. It didn’t hurt that Morgan Beauregard hit back-to-back three-pointers at just the right time to help the clamps securely fit into place.
“Our depth and resolve led us to victory,” Baird-Torney said. “Although we shot poorly in the first half and struggled to create turnovers, we stuck to our game plan and erased an early deficit. Foul trouble was a big factor in the second half, and we never missed a beat anytime we went to the bench.”
Utton’s 11 points and 15 rebounds led the surge while Makenna Grillone’s 8 points off the bench were a very timely addition.
Monadnoack and Newfound meet in the other semi-final clash at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening at SNHU.
Bellows Falls at Springfield
Just like the Fall Mountain-Conant third meeting, this meeting of rivals will be their third of the winter. Springfield has prevailed in two tight contests, which both were two point games down the stretch. The Cosmos won at home 58-52 and then broke open a tight one and won going away 58-48 a couple of weeks back. This match-up will take place Wednesday in Springfield at 7 p.m. and was not expected. Both teams expected to face a northern opponent, except upsets and a tiebreaking curveball are bringing the rivals together.
These two teams are quite evenly matched and Cosmo coach Joe Costello is fully aware of the Terriers’ capabilities. He said, “I respect the Bellows Falls program and they have a very capable athletic team whose press can cause havoc against any team.” The Cosmos had their hands full two times this season with Bellows Fall and found a way to win. Now they will have to overcome Bellows Fall’s strengths one more time in order to advance.
“I like our chances,” Bellows Falls coach Todd Wells aid, obviously knowing it is tough to beat a good team three times. Both teams are good teams, owning records of 15-5 each. One of the teams will travel to Enosburgh on Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest. The good news is that most in the know figure Enosburgh is likely the weakest of the top four seeds. The bad news is that they must defeat their nearby rival to advance to that game.
Both local coaches have concerns following their 20th games of the recently completed season. Springfield fell to Windsor 60-50 in an exciting up-tempo contest and Costello was disturbed the loss was predicated by communication issues this late in the campaign.
The game was tight at halftime, but after intermission Costello said, “We came out and didn’t communicate. They had seven points off of a broken defense. This (Windsor) is a team too strong to give free baskets to.”
Wells was also shaking his head about what he thought were simple mistakes in the final moments by his team in a 46-40 loss to Green Mountain, which may have cost his team earning a home court game in the first round, instead finishing directly behind Springfield. Wells said, “This is a veteran team that isn’t playing real well right now. We forget to do the little things, like boxing out on free throws and that cost us a victory.”
These two teams are obviously set up for a big play-off game.
Green Mountain at Peoples
This should be another strong play-off match-up, but it is also a game that unfortunately shows the Vermont play-off system has to be altered and it will be. Currently Division III only has a dozen teams and some of those with lesser records correctly choose to not participate in the post season. As a result, a fifth seed such as Green Mountain has no first round game and hits the road to meet a Final Four caliber team Peoples Academy in their first game of the play-offs. This veteran team deserves better than that, but until next winter’s realignment, that is what it is.
This Green Mountain squad coached by Terry Farrell has many claims to fame to go along with their 15-5 record, including two victories over a 15-5 Division II Bellows Falls team and a win over Division III third seed Windsor. Peoples is tough, but the Lady Chieftains tune up 46-40 last Saturday afternoon could help this team prepare for a contest this Friday night at Lamoille at 7 p.m. Peoples gym is not approved for tournament play thus this contest is basically on a neutral court.
Hazen 19-1, Thetford 17-2, Windsor 16-4, and Peoples 15-5 are the seeds above Green Mountain, so their work is cut out for them. A win over Peoples would send the ladies from the Chester to Barre and the Final Four next Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Farrell is confident about his team’s chances on both sides of the ball. They are athletic and can cause teams problems on defense and said, “We have seven players who can really contribute on offense. In fact, we have seven players who have had 10 points or more, more than once.” Very few high school teams anywhere can match that stat.
Leland & Gray and Black River stay home
Both Leland & Gray (3-17) and Black River (1-18) decided with their lack of victories during the regular season to not participate in the Vermont Principals Association Tournament. Rebels coach Terry Morrow said, “The team as a whole set a goal of winning five games to go to the tournament early this season and we didn’t reach it.” Merrow did feel the future could prove to be brighter with “a good freshman class coming in.”
Lady President coach Howie Paul said, “We’ve had injuries and we didn’t feel we were going to be competitive, so we chose not to go.” Paul said with likely Black River’s final year of existence ahead, “We expect to field a team next year, but right now, we are not sure it will be a varsity team or JV.”