REGION – Chances are every winter when balls are thrown up for the opening tip in every school in the area, the Fall Mountain girls’ basketball team will prove to be the last one standing. However, this year both the Springfield and Green Mountain girls’ teams have a couple of opportunities to prove that they will stand longer this time around. Fall Mountain advanced to the New Hampshire Division III Girls Championship Game before bowing to Monadnock 51-44 last Saturday. Both Springfield and Green Mountain have advanced to play in their Vermont Division II and III semi-finals respectively this week.
The Fall Mountain run to the finals was a surprise to most. A relatively young team put together a fine season and won their semi-final 45-44 against long-time tourney rival Conant last Wednesday. The number four seeded Wildcats dropped the top seed, a team they had split with during the regular season. Conant jumped ahead early 14-8, but a 7-0 run in the second quarter helped push them to a 23-21 edge at intermission.
Coach Matt Baird-Torney’s team led throughout the second half and held on despite a strong Conant comeback down the stretch. The coach said, “We switched to a 1-3 with a chaser after going down by six early. Makenna (Grillone) was tasked with slowing down Gonyea, and she did a phenomenal job. The zone also did well at limiting Chamberlain and Conant’s second chance points.”
Senior Zoey Utton finished with a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Avery Stewart, Sophie Bardis, and Grillone tallied 10, 8, and 7 points respectively.
In the title game, Fall Mountain would gain a 7-point lead at halftime, but fouls accumulated in the second half, which slowed down the Lady Wildcat chances as Monadnock captured their second title in a three-year period. Utton had another strong effort in her career finale, with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Stewart also finished in double digits with 12 points. Baird-Torney said, “I’m very proud of this team and their growth this season. This team exceeded even the wildest of expectations and left everything they had on the court.”
Springfield’s victory over Bellows Falls 54-42 turned into an ESPN-type instant classic. Both teams held sizeable leads in the first half with the team behind bouncing back, and then the Terriers jumped out to a 40-27 advantage in the third period while seemingly the Cosmos had completely run out of gas. Out of nowhere, the Cosmos took charge outscoring their Terrier rivals 27-2 for the rest of the game, moving one step away from the dancing to Barre. Hannah Crosby, who has performed all kinds of hardwood magic over her four-year career, had 22 points on the night, and totaled more than half of the Springfield points in the final run. Gabby Wardwell was a standout with 16 additional points. Coach Joe Costello remarked after the contest, “I believed we had another run in us and it all worked out.”
The Enosburg game was tighter at the end but not as exciting throughout. There were plenty of sweaty palms though before the Cosmos secured a 60-59 victory. The Cosmos led 16-6, 32-23, and 49-33 after the first three quarters respectively until the host Hornets did what they saw Springfield do to Bellows Falls on film. Springfield may not have believed the hometown ladies could catch them, but they did at 55-55. The Cosmos made just enough free throws in the final moments to hold on and not let their season end like Bellows Falls.
Wardwell’s 14 led the way, followed by 13 from Crosby, and 10 from Jessica Cerniglia. Julianna Albero-Levings, Ashley Chamberlin, and Hailey Perham added 8, 8, and 7 respectively. Perham also had 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Costello said Enosburg “had nothing to lose at the end and were extremely aggressive and they kept crawling back. When it was over and we held on, our team was out of their mind with happiness.” Springfield now faces Fair Haven Wednesday night at 8:15 p.m. at the Barre Auditorium.
Vermont Division III had only 11 teams in the tourney this winter so despite a high number 5 seed, Green Mountain never had the opportunity to host a play-off game. They had to jump on the road right away and travel to a strong Peoples team and had to play without their big presence Hannah Buffum in the middle, but the team pulled together, overcoming a second half deficit to survive and move on 45-32. The score was one-sided, but there were certainly bumps in the road. Although the Lady Chieftains led at the quarter 10-7, their bench grew shorter in the second stanza, when Paige Karl and Annie Lamson joined Buffum on the sideline due to foul trouble. Enosburg drew a resulting 19-13 advantage at the half, due to the calls.
To protect the athletes in foul trouble, Coach Terry Farrell went to a zone, but when play was ragged and the Enosburg lead was not evaporating midway through the third quarter, Farrell said, “We went to man-to-man and that switched the game around.”
Green Mountain had gained a 30-25 three-quarter advantage and never looked back. Maya Lewis’ 14 led Green Mountain, while Lamson and Karl tallied 13 and 8 respectively. Green Mountain meets Oxbow at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening at the Barre Auditorium. Windsor and Thetford, the other semi-finalists meet in the second half of the Division III doubleheader.