VERGENNES — A Vergennes Union High School boys’ basketball team without a senior on the roster improved to 2-0 on Saturday, when the host Commodores used a 12-0 second-half run to erase Montpelier’s one-point lead on the way to a 53-40 win.
Five Commodores scored in that outburst, which lasted 2:48, and only one of them was a starter — sophomore guard Shep Carter, who beat the third-quarter buzzer with a 10-foot runner to make it 34-29, VUHS.
The run ended with sophomore Charlie Stapleford’s trey at 6:35 of the fourth to make it 40-29; the Solons came no closer than eight points after that.
Sophomore forward Stanley Salley opened the surge with a putback to give VUHS a 30-29 lead at 1:25 of the third, followed by a Stapleford fast-break hoop and one of sophomore guard Nate Cannon’s two treys in the game.
In all, 11 Commodores scored, and four hit treys. Carter, who made sure the Solons did not rally by hitting six of eight free throws down the stretch, said the Commodores may be young, but have been playing together for years and have a lot of faith in each other.
“We’re very confident, and we’ve got a deep bench, and we all are a great team together,” said Carter, who finished with team highs of 10 points and five rebounds.
Coach Peter Quinn knows there will be tougher tests ahead, including Monday’s game at Champlain Valley. But he said it is no accident VUHS has allowed just 81 points in its two games.
“Our defense again was good. We’re very scrappy. We recover well. Those are our strengths so far early in the year. We have a lot of guys who work really hard,” Quinn said.
The Commodores needed that good defense in the first half, when their offense did not click, in part because the Solons’ 2-3 zone did not allow them to get the ball inside.
After one period, Montpelier led, 7-4, as their top scorers all found the range: forward Rory King, who finished with 10 points; center Cullen Rose (nine overall) and guard Kelsey Mencia (nine overall) combined for all the Solon points in the quarter. VUHS managed just a three by sophomore Cody Quattrocci (eight points) and junior Jacob Burmania’s free throw.
But the Commodores were also causing the Solons fits on defense, both with a full-court press and with their own 2-3 zone, which emphasized aggressive ball pressure. Montpelier turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, seven each quarter.
In the second period VUHS began to hit a few shots. A Carter jumper at 6:05 snapped a five-minute scoring drought for VUHS, and treys by sophomore guard Devin Hayes and Stapleford (eight points) and a three-point play inside by junior center Jake Bushee (five points, five boards) put VUHS up at the break, 15-14.
There were eight lead changes in the third. After an early Mencia and King hoops, VUHS went on top, 20-19, on a bucket inside by Bushee and three-point play by junior guard Collin Curler. But hoops by Rose and Jake Bonfur gave the Solons their largest lead, 23-20.
Five straight Quattrocci points on a trey and a layup set up by a Carter steal put VUHS back on top, 24-23. After two Solon hoops, Cannon sank his first trey to make it 28-27, VUHS. Two King free throws at 1:55 made it 29-28 and set the stage for the Commodores’ decisive run.
In the fourth, Commodore sophomore guard Tyran Sprauve scored four points, blocked two shots and grabbed two rebounds as VUHS protected the lead until Carter iced the game from the line.
Quinn said the VUHS offense came alive because the Commodores were finally able to work the ball inside: In the first half they attempted seven shots inside the three-point line, and in the second half they shot 16 times in the paint.
Quinn also pointed to miscues in the late going: The Commodores launched quick shots rather than show more patience with a double-digit lead. VUHS also must address rebounding. To be fair, when a team forces 20 turnovers, there are fewer defensive boards to be had, but the Solons did earn a 38-30 advantage.
But Quinn said there is time for a young team to address what are now shortcomings, especially given its strengths in ballhandling, depth and quickness.
“I’m very happy. We’re moving forward,” he said.
Carter said the Commodores’ intangibles should also continue to give them a lift.
“We guys have been playing together for a long time, and we feel like we can be the best,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]