Long before the last few full moons, it was always ladies before gentlemen. Then the world got all twisted up.
In both New Hampshire and Vermont this winter, it is once again ladies before gentlemen. The state basketball tournaments are competed in a female first procedure.
It is only fitting that Fall Mountain kicks off all the fun. They began play first. They had their opener in November this winter, and Wednesday night they begin all the postseason excitement with the tournament opener versus the Campbell Camels at 7 p.m. in Langdon.
Playing in Langdon is a big thing. The Wildcats are undefeated in the Wildcat Den. It is a very difficult place to play. I know this. I’ve coached there. In some ways it is a great place to coach or play, especially if you are coaching or playing for the Wildcats.
Coach Matthew Baird-Torney’s team has beaten “the top three seeds this season and would not see them until a neutral court game,” meaning the Final Four. Conant is top seed at 16-2, Newfound was second sitting 15-3, as was Monadnock, who was third. The Lady Wildcats were fourth with a 14-4 mark. Fall Mountain played one of the toughest schedules in the state. The good news is they went 3-2 head to head with those top three teams. The bad news is they lost three of their last five, but that’s the way the schedule went, as they played several tough games at the end of the season on the road.
Baird-Torney’s team was 10-0 at one time and 12-1 a little later. The most important thing is the coach feels good about his team. He relayed to me that, “The girls have had a goal all season of reaching SNHU and they remained determined and focused on achieving that goal. Although we are a young team, we feel that we have the leadership and teamwork necessary for a deep play-off run.”
They beat Conant at home 53-50 but fell to them on the road in the next to last game of the season 55-34. They played second seed Newfound only once and defeated them on the road 45-30. Once again, they split with Monadnock, defeating them at home 56-41, before losing to them a short time later 48-37 on the road. The combined score versus the top three teams is close, 225 for Fall Mountain, 224 for those opponents.
Two seniors have been in the starting five most of the winter with Zoe Utton averaging 11.7 near the top of the pack in scoring, while the starting center Kendall McAllister has tossed in 6.6 points and been intangible in the middle. A pair of sophomores have added their share with Sophie Bardis contributing 7.9 points a game, while Morgan Beauregard tosses in 3.3 points and contributes in other ways. Freshman Avery Stewart leads the team in scoring with 11.9 a game. The top reserves are a pair of sophomores Shea Pickering (3.3) and Hillary Berry (1.6) and another freshman Makenna Grillone (3.6). The team averages 52.9 points a game while allowing 37.3 per contest.
If Fall Mountain wins the Wednesday night opening round game, they will return to the Wildcat Den Saturday evening at 7 p.m. to face a tough White Mountains team, which they will need that cherished home court advantage against. Fall Mountain is likely to be the one area basketball team who advances the furthest this winter.
Oops, I’ve done it again
I have to confess. It was the 88-5-3 I got stuck on.
I don’t ever remember any area team ever having a streak anything near to that. The 88-5-3 carried me away to forget other Bellows Falls programs who had achieved at a level of the Bellows Falls field hockey girls, in both times gone by and in recent years.
I wrote last week, “Again, this recognition is for the group of players who garnered the highest spot in Bellows Falls field hockey history, but the collective performance from 2012 through 2018 all has been part of a period of time unmatched by any other program in the school’s history. Perhaps even not achieved by any program in Vermont sports history – except for maybe Mount Anthony wrestling.”
Stop the presses. That statement is likely true if written 88-5-3 and its percentage of victories, but that’s not what I said.
The dissenting parties who stood up for their teams deserve their credit and that credit is related to what they amassed over their seven-year stretches of Purple and White sports history.
When I called Tim Eno to apologize, my face was especially red. Eno had been slighted twice in my statement. Bellows Falls’ current cross country and track coach was a member of three Terrier teams as a high school student who claimed Division I State Cross Country titles, during a stretch of success which saw Russ Pickering coached teams capture the top prize in Vermont, the Division I state title, six times in seven years, beginning in 1973 through 1979. Those teams had sensational records, but they competed in regional super races, which obscured their overall record at times.
Eno also is presently the coach of Bellows Falls track. The boys’ team has collected an unprecedented six straight state titles and counting, and the girls’ team is closing in on lofty numbers as well, with four titles in succession.
Obviously these amazing achievements in the running sports in Bellows Falls fall into a special category, which should not have been forgotten.
Sometimes the running sports are overlooked, I mentioned to Eno, who quickly replied, “You can say that again.”
Salute from coaches
When I contacted both Pickering and Eno to talk about getting carried away with the field hockey success at the expense of others, they both were more than obliging, especially because they both wanted Bethany Coursen to have more than her day in the sun with her accomplishments.
They both echoed the respect they had for the program she has built and accomplishments of her teams. They both were also taken in by the 88-5-3 mark. Bethany, this is still your time to be front and center stage.
Gone, but hopefully not forgotten
Unfortunately, Pickering teams were much easier to misplace since even the most recent edition of the six titles in seven years streak was 40 years ago. I thought I would pass along to you the names of the athletes during that streak who actually placed in a scoring position for their teams. Many of these runners competed on more than one title team.
Those runners, in addition to Eno, were Duane Miller, Edward Fisher, Greg Francis, Joe Schultz, Andy Bernier, Jim Smidutz, Tom Smidutz, Fred Boggess, Kevin Lawrence, Lewis Smith, Tom Anderson, Art Schram, Chip Stearns, Aaron Schwab, Chuck Thurston, Paul Muzzey, Wayne Beam, Dave Dancosse, Gary Harrington, David Miller, Rick Angers, Matt Guild, Russell Wickberg, Bruce Brandon, Mike Nauceder, Tom Pickering, and Rob Thomas.
An interesting tidbit about the streak of this era is that 1978 is the year Bellows Falls did not collect a state title. They won six of seven years, but Burlington won the crown in 1978.
I mentioned Bellows Falls was a regular participant in Regional Super races and one of those was the regular running of the Our Lady Of Providence competition on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Warwick, R.I. This particular race was regularly attended by just not the top teams from the New England states, but also top teams from New York and New Jersey. The same type of competition attended the annual race in Van Cortland Park in New York City. The Terriers ran against top teams every fall.
The oddity about 1978 is that is the year that Bellows Falls won the Providence competition. They weren’t good enough to capture the state that fall, but on one day in September, they beat every big team in the east. Go figure.
Pickering mentioned one of the biggest reasons for his team’s success was “In the end, it wasn’t the score that mattered. It was that we had done the best we can do, whether it was in a meet or in a practice. It wasn’t ever taken for granted that we would win. The runners were expected to outwork every other team every day.”