Remembering Green Mountain’s star JV basketball team
As I look back in time over recent years, I can think of four examples of our six reporting schools in the area where a school had to call time out in a certain varsity sport. Black River had one winter when they could not field a varsity boys’ basketball team. Green Mountain had the same situation with their girls’ basketball program one year, and both Fall Mountain and Springfield faced fall seasons when they were unable to field a varsity football team for a full season schedule. In each case, I wondered if this could be the beginning of the end. In each case, as time went along, the numbers returned and play went on.
Today, I focus on the Green Mountain girls’ basketball program back in 2014-15. Coach Terry Farrell and Athletic Director Brendan McNamara were scratching their heads about how to survive a season of low numbers when disaster struck. They had just decided to go full speed ahead with a roster of six Green Mountain high school players – three seniors Kristina Knockenhauer, Holly Landon and Jordan Stewart and three sophomores Hanna Veysey, Kassidy Cummings, and Sarah Rogers – when calamity reared its head. Much depended upon standout Knockenhauer who tore her ACL in a scrimmage in Arlington. The Lady Chieftain varsity program for that season became history.
There were plenty of questions of how competitive the team would have been anyway; but without Knockenhauer, the degree of difficulty became more than sky-high. Instead of depending on an eighth grader or two or three to make it through, now, the question became what do we do now? Farrell and McNamara pulled the plug, created a tidy 16-game junior varsity schedule included seven eighth graders, and went out to salvage what they possibly could.
I remember vividly feeling bad for everyone involved. One senior, Landon, headed to Leland & Gray and played varsity ball there. It was Landon’s third school in her high school career. She began at Burr & Burton, transferred to Green Mountain, and now had to travel to Townshend in order to still play. There was one piece of consolation for Landon. She had played for Rebel Coach Terry Merrill who had been at Burr & Burton. The other senior, Stewart, decided not to travel, and her basketball career ended. The three remaining sophomores teamed with seven eighth graders and the 2014-15 edition of Green Mountain Lady Chieftain basketball took the court ready to play.
Flashing back five winters, I still had one more concerned feeling. It was for those eighth graders. Paige Karl, Rachel Guera, Maya Lewis, Annie Lamson, Allie Kenney, Reilly Merrill, and Hannah Flemming were being asked to give up playing regularly at the middle school level. Eighth grade is usually one last year of developing without facing the test of much older athletes competing for valued time. These players would miss their final opportunity to enjoy such an experience.
And then, somehow, the 10 athletes progressed through Farrell’s leadership to enjoy a remarkable winter. Playing a combination of junior varsity and freshmen teams, this band of Chieftains enjoyed a 14-2 season and grew individually and together along the way. What was a salvation season of an unfortunate situation became the first solid building block of Green Mountain’s step to a Vermont State Division III Final Four appearance, their first since 1982. Once again, this situation became the first step to the best season since 1982. Blow up the program again. It only takes five years to get near the top.
Farrell and his Chieftains caught the perfect storm to allow this year’s senior class to grow to the point where they had the tools to become one of the best teams in school history. Two new players who are graduating this year came to Green Mountain after this scenario – Hannah Buffum and Alyssa Ripley – and one went to prep school – Flemming. This is definitely not the formula I would recommend to build a program; however, in this once in a lifetime moment, it unquestionably became the perfect path.
“I knew things would be alright,” Farrell remarks. “Certainly I was disappointed, but it happened and we moved on. The thing I was worried about the most was the commitment. Eighth graders are young even for JVs. I sat them down right away and told them what the commitment was. There would be no missing practices for one reason or another. Not only did they not miss practice, they were committed during the off season, taking part in AAU, summer league, and even open gyms, unless they had conflicts with other sports. One thing I keep remembering is funny because it was the first time I had taken a team to McDonald’s and they were excited to order Happy Meals.”
Not now though. Farrell points out that many of his players now, not only spurn McDonald’s, but also choose choice foods to assure they are developing to the fullest in all areas. Certainly, they did learn a lot along the way, starting with how to win.
Terrier Hall Of Fame
Here’s hoping the success enjoyed by the recent induction of the inaugural class of the Springfield High School Hall of Fame generates interest for other Hall of Fames throughout the area. Bellows Falls inducted their inaugural class 25 years ago and had several after, but inductions have been dormant for the past 18 years. The Springfield news may have generated a new fire there.
A press release arrived recently, which reads: “The Terrier Hall of Fame is proud to announce that we are seeking nominations for our 2019 class. Nominations are open now, going till May 15, 2019. We are looking to honor the individuals who have ‘Demonstrated Outstanding Contributions To The Proud Terrier Tradition.’ The nominee must be a graduate from BFUHS or BFHS and been out of school for at least 10 years or a teacher/staff member/coach at BFUHS or BFHS for at least 10 years, or a member of the community and has given to the proud Terrier Tradition for a minimum of 10 years.”
To submit your nomination or more information, please visit www.sites.google.com/wnesu.com/terrierhalloffame/home or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The inductees and date and location for the induction ceremony will be announced in July.