MIDDLEBURY — In Middlebury on Thursday, the Vergennes and Middlebury union high school girls’ basketball teams went into overtime for the second time this winter.
This time, the 4-16 Commodores made the key plays: After losing a lead in the final minute of regulation they had held for the entire second half, VUHS responded with the tying basket 15 seconds later and then dominated the extra session to win, 42-38.
VUHS senior forward Cat Chaput, who led VUHS with 11 points and eight rebounds, said all the Commodores contributed as they avenged their home loss.
“All of us really just ended up having a good night at the same time,” Chaput said. “We were really just able to pull it all together in the end somehow, some way.”
VUHS coach Billy Waller said the Commodores’ switch to a 1-3-1 zone helped, and credited the efforts of senior Morgen Clark in the middle and Chaput on the baseline for making it work: The Tigers didn’t shoot well, and unlike in their win at VUHS were unable to convert offensive rebounds into points — VUHS earned a 52-41 edge on the boards, including team rebounds.
Waller also agreed all the Commodores who played made a difference.
“I thought Morgen did a great job of controlling the middle, and Cat, her communication in the back of the zone, was outstanding. So for two seniors to play their best game of the year, I’m pretty proud of those girls,” Waller said. “And … I can’t think of one kid I stuck on the floor tonight that didn’t make a play to help us win.”
The Commodores will enter the D-II playoffs with the No. 14 seed and face No. 3 BFA-Fairfax in the first round.
MUHS will be D-I’s 14 seed and meet No. 3 Essex. The Vermont Principals’ Association was set to release pairings on Monday morning.
The Tigers controlled play for much of Thursday’s first half. They forced 15 of the 25 total VUHS turnovers in the half and turning the ball over only four times in the first half and 14 times overall.
But for much of the game, the ball simply wouldn’t drop for the Tigers. Their first points came on a three by junior Hannah Hobbs at 2:46 of the first period, and made the score 4-3, VUHS. At that point, VUHS had received only three from senior Breanna Lapan and a Chaput free throw against the sticky Tiger man-to-man defense.
Hobbs’ three sparked an 11-2 MUHS run that made it 11-6 at 6:00 of the second quarter. In that run, sophomore Krisandra Provencher hit two hoops and fed senior forward Erin Connor in the lane, and senior Tiffany Danyow got a shot to drop before sitting with foul trouble.
VUHS responded with an 11-0 run in which Clark (8 points) and Chaput scored four apiece and freshman Sarah Poirier-Thayer banked in a three. MUHS junior Olivia Carpenter hit a jumper at 0:04 to make it 17-13, VUHS at the break.
After halftime, treys from Danyow (14 points) and Hobbs (eight) helped MUHS cut it to 23-21, but the VUHS bench did damage against the Tigers’ second-half zone: Poirier-Thayer banked in another three, senior Abbie Stearns drove for a hoop to make it 28-21, and senior Amanda Cota opened the fourth with a putback to make it 30-21.
MUHS fought back with four points from junior forward Julia Cluss and a Connor fast-break hoop to make it 30-27. Buckets by Clark and Lapan made it 34-27, VUHS, at 4:05.
Then MUHS took charge after switching back to man defense: Danyow hit a three, Connor hit in the lane, and Cluss grabbed an offensive board and set up a Hobbs jumper that made it at 34-34 at 2:10. At 0:40, Danyow drove to put MUHS on top, 36-34.
But VUHS fed sophomore K.C. Ambrose (10 points) for a 15-footer on an inbounds play at 0:25. Chaput blocked a shot at the other end, and it was on to OT.
There, Clark twice drove and dished to Ambrose and Chaput for short jumpers, and with a minute to go, Chaput took an inbounds pass at midcourt and drove to the hoop for a layup to make it 42-36. Danyow was fouled on a three-point attempt and sank two free throws at 0:12 to create the final score.
Nikki Salley and Lapan each pulled in seven boards for VUHS, while Ambrose nabbed four steals.
Chaput said the win after a long, at times frustrating, season was special, especially against a rival.
“It means so much to the team,” she said. “This at the end of the season was really good for the seniors and the rest of the team for our confidence.”
Waller was happy to see his team rewarded for what he said has been plenty of effort.
“For the girls on the way out, it means they finally saw some of the work they put in pay off,” Waller said. “And for the girls that are returning … I think it will set us up to have a more successful season next year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.