This is the time of year that we take a risk and predict how each of the area’s 12 basketball teams will do this winter. Making the tournament is much easier for Vermont schools than those in New Hampshire, because in Vermont if you escape the cellar of your division, you advance. In New Hampshire, you need to be in the top 70% to qualify. It would make much more sense to me to have both states use one easy format. The top 12 teams go, period.
Who will get the dreaded top spot in our annual exercise? We are beginning with the boys’ selections because “B” before “G.” This winter, we expect both the best record and the best play in the area to go to the Bellows Falls boys. However, don’t take this pick to the bank.
It is expected to be a very close competition. Three area boys’ teams have new coaches this winter, and each of those three teams should have some exciting moments for their fans to keep their eyes on. John Hollar’s Terriers carry the heaviest burden in that number one spot only because it’s been a long time since their closest rivals, the Springfield Cosmos, have beaten the Terriers.
Springfield also has a new coach in Mike Hatt who has sat in the Cosmo coaching seat before. The reason both teams should be in contention for best show in the area is that both have a good number of strong senior athletes, who should enjoy the experience of their final year of competition. Bellows Falls should definitely have the best record between the two because they play the easier schedule. Which team will actually be best between the two will be exciting to watch.
In recent seasons, I have made a big deal telling everyone to take in the round robin play of games between Bellows Falls, Green Mountain, and Springfield in girls’ play. Green Mountain has been hit hard by graduation in the girls’ ranks, but the Cosmos and the Terriers should play great competitive games this year – the first one is Friday night at Springfield – but more exciting are the round robin slate of games this winter on the boys’ side.
Not only do Bellows Falls and Springfield show improvement in the top two spots, but Green Mountain and Leland & Gray will be close to each other in talent and should be third and fourth respectively in the area. However, if those four teams were in the same league, playing each other twice, you would have an exciting game most every time out.
The other two boys’ teams in the area, Fall Mountain and Black River, are a ways behind the top four, but they could pull some upsets along the way. The Wildcats should be better overall than the Presidents.
Bellows Falls is off to a 1-0 start with a relatively easy triumph over Long Trail 56-25. Coach Hollar was pleased that “14 players played, and there was very unselfish play by all.”
Ryan Kelly led Bellows Falls in scoring with 10 points, followed closely by John Terry and Dylan Clark with 10 and 9 respectively. Bellows Falls led 20-5 after one quarter and then substituted in conservative fashion.
Green Mountain fell in a close one in their opener 49-44 to Mill River. Interestingly, those were the boys’ teams that met for the Vermont Division III state title in soccer with the Chieftains winning.
Mill River was tabbed by the Burlington Free Press to be one of the top eight boys basketball teams in the state, regardless of division, thus this was a strong opener for the Chieftains in a losing cause.
Coach Brian Rapanotti told me, “We were up at halftime by four and the real difference was they are more experienced at closing games out than we are.”
Green Mountain hosts strong teams in their own holiday tourney this Wednesday and Thursday with Springfield and Mount Saint Joseph meeting at 4:30 p.m. on the opening day and Twin Valley (2-0) facing the Chieftains at 7:30 p.m.
James Anderson and Ty Merrel led Green Mountain in scoring versus Mill River with 14 and 12 respectively.
Leland & Gray and Fall Mountain both fell in their first action with the Rebels falling in a close overtime affair 64-62, while the Wildcats lost to Winnisquam 54-20. First year coach James Pecsok said, “We did a lot of things right, which pleased me. But we also did a lot of things that showed it was our first game.”
Liam Towle and Matt Dunn paced the Rebels offensively with 26 and 12 points.
In the Fall Mountain loss, Lucien Hagland’s 7 points paced the offense. Coach Justin Cassarino said, “The game showed we have a lot of things we have to work on. The tournament next week will be great for us to work on the areas that we need to improve on.”
Springfield and Black River await their openers.
Next week we will predict the area order of finish for the girls.