VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School girls’ basketball team on Tuesday earned a key victory in its quest for a home Division II playoff game, 52-39 over visiting D-I Colchester.
The 6-13 Commodores, the No. 8 team in the D-II standings, now have a six-point lead over No. 9 U-32 (5-13). The Raiders will have to defeat Lyndon, No. 3 in D-II, and Northfield, No. 3 in D-III, to catch the Commodores, who end their regular season at South Burlington on Thursday.
Senior forward and co-captain Kathleen Van Wyck, who sparked VUHS with 14 points and 14 rebounds on Tuesday, said the team wanted to nail down the home playoff game. That will mean the Commodores will probably host the U-32 Raiders, who they edged at home, 52-51, on Dec. 4. Playoff pairings will be announced on Monday.
“We’re looking forward to that,” Van Wyck said. “We realize that the home crowd always helps us, so it was a big deal.”
On the surface, the team’s 6-13 record may not seem impressive, but Coach Billy Waller noted that VUHS plays twice against D-I Champlain Valley, South Burlington and Mount Mansfield, plus two more games each against 18-1 Milton and 13-7 Middlebury, which just dropped down to D-II from D-I this year.
He believes the Commodores have improved.
“Anybody that plays in our league plays a tough schedule every night,” Waller said. “Obviously, you want to win as many games as you can, but we’ve doubled what we won last year, and we’re moving forward.”
Van Wyck agreed the Commodores are an improved unit.
“We just work together better. We have a better understanding,” she said. “Once we put our attitudes and stuff aside, we can just play basketball and have fun, which is a good feeling.”
Effective ball movement — and three of sophomore center Hannah Curler’s four blocked shots — helped VUHS take a 12-6 lead over the 0-18 Lakers after one period. Junior guard Ali Provost sank a three and three free throws for six of her 15 points, and also set up hoops by Van Wyck and Curler. Curler also dished to Dani Stapleford as VUHS had assists on three of four baskets in the period.
At the half, the VUHS lead was 25-17. The Lakers kept it close in the second quarter by attacking the boards. In all, rebounds were even at 36-36, but CHS held a 14-7 edge in the period. Only Rachel Seaman had more than three points for the Lakers at that point, with six. Provost and Van Wyck had four each in the second, and Alexa Higbee tossed in three free throws as the Lakers got into foul trouble.
The Commodores opened the second half with an 11-4 run in which Van Wyck (six) and Provost (five) combined for all the points, with Stapleford setting up Van Wyck twice inside. Seaman (12 points) scored four to hold the VUHS lead to 37-25 after three periods.
The Lakers unleashed a press in the fourth quarter, and the Commodores committed 11 of their 24 turnovers. Jenna Weed also tried to rally the Lakers with eight of her 12 points in the period.
But VUHS showed poise at the free throw line in not allowing the Lakers to get any closer than nine at any point. VUHS hit 10 of 14 free throws in the period, including nine of 10 by Higbee, while Curler contributed a strong move in the paint.
On the team’s Senior Night, Higbee finished with 12 points, all on free throws, seven rebounds and two assists. Curler had nine points and five boards, Brooke Bougor added five boards, and Provost contributed three steals. Waller also said Stapleford, Hillary Delisle and Tabby Danyow continued to fill in well for the injured Margy Kerschner.
Waller said he was happy to see balanced scoring from a team that has often relied on Provost, and with the Commodores’ aggressive approach on offense.
“We shared the ball. We got some other people in the scoring column. We got to the foul line,” he said. “We know we’re not the greatest offensive team, so we try to attack the basket.”
And Van Wyck said the Commodores are happy to see their efforts paying off.
“We’ve been working hard all season, and finally we’re pulling it together toward the end,” she said. “And then (it was) Senior Night, so it feels good to win.”