VERGENNES — The new-look Vergennes Union High School boys’ basketball team on Saturday earned its first win of this season, 53-42, over visiting Montpelier.
After graduating 11 seniors from the 2013 Division II champs, the 1-2 Commodores had already absorbed two more losses than that 24-0 team, and even the usual strong fan support in their gym looked lacking.
But those who showed up might have seen a young team starting to come into its own: The Commodores used a 12-0 run to take a quick lead, and after leading by 17-6 after the first period never let the Solons come closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Lanky junior center Wesley Miedema — who led VUHS with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots — said the Commodores learned on Saturday what they have to do to win, and maybe just what they have to offer.
“This game really shows that this is what we have to bring,” Miedema said. “We definitely have more to bring to the table than the first two games, and we’re definitely going to do really well this season.”
The Commodores bounced back from a 61-33 loss on Thursday at South Burlington in which they scored just eight points in the second half; senior Brendon Huestis scored 10 to lead VUHS in that game.
On Saturday, the Commodores scored more than eight points by hitting their first four shots, two of them three-pointers by junior Dana Ambrose and senior Jarrett LaFleche.
Those treys were part of the 12-0 run that erased the Solons’ only lead: Forward Rory King sank an early jumper for two of his game-high 17 points. Ambrose’s three put VUHS on top, and Miedema hit in the post on a feed from junior point guard Liam Hayes. LaFleche then drilled his trey, and Hayes sank a baseline jumper that led to a Montpelier timeout at 5:22.
VUHS coach Peter Quinn said he was pleased the Commodores came out with both intensity and confidence.
“We were relaxed for the first time this year … We came out with good energy, and we scored,” Quinn said. “We scored five times really early off of our offense, which we’ve had trouble doing.”
The timeout did not help Montpelier. Ambrose stole the ball and fed Miedema in the post to make it 12-2 and cap the early run. The VUHS offense went briefly cold, allowing King and John Killian to score inside to make it 12-6 at 1:15.
But the Commodores closed the quarter strong: LaFleche set up another Miedema hoop inside and junior Dylan Raymond sank a trey to make it 17-6. VUHS forced six Solon turnovers in the period and turned it over just twice.
Hayes picked up his second foul and sat out the second quarter, and the VUHS ballhandling suffered, with seven turnovers. Montpelier outscored VUHS in the period, but only by 13-12, as VUHS sophomore guard Aaron Gaines scored six of his eight points in the period and assisted a late LaFleche trey. King hit for seven points in the quarter to boost the Solons, but they trailed by 10 at the break, 29-19.
Solon guard Cody Therrien (10 points) drove to make it 29-21 at 7:10 of the third period, and the lead was eight. But the Commodore defense, good all game, took over, and did not allow a point until a Therrien three 5:10 later. By then VUHS had pushed its lead to 35-21 on jumpers by Huestis and Ambrose (seven points) and a Miedema putback.
Defense and boardwork — counting team rebounds, VUHS held a 21-12 edge in the second half — was the story of the quarter.
“(We were) making sure that you watch your man and stay on your man, just working together, (playing) help defense,” Miedema said.
Quinn was happy with the effort.
“The defensive intensity was good. We had periodic bouts of reaching, but for much of the game we played with our feet,” he said.
After Therrien’s trey made it 35-24, the Commodores closed the period on a 7-3 run to lead by 15, 42-27. Ambrose drove for two, and Hayes hit a three and fed senior center Jamie DeVries for a buzzer-beating layup. The Solons came no closer the 11 in the fourth quarter.
Seven Commodore scored at least five points. Hayes had five and added four rebounds and three assists, while Raymond scored six and pulled down five boards. Huestis tallied five and added a pair of steals, and LaFleche scored six.
VUHS plays at Burr & Burton on Monday and hosts Peoples at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, after which valuable senior forward Josh Benning will be eligible to play.
After Saturday’s game, Quinn said he was feeling good about his team’s prospects despite its inexperience.
“We have a lot of 50-50 games on our schedule this year. And if we can come out and play hard and well, we’ll win most of them,” Quinn said. “There are obviously some things we can do better, but this was a big step forward.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.