Eagles tune up for tourney with win

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team used a big fourth quarter to defeat visiting Milton on Tuesday, 43-34.
The Eagles improved to 12-7 heading into Thursday’s regular season finale, a home game vs. Middlebury. Mount Abe has already clinched no worse than a No. 3 seed for the Division II playoffs, but could move up to No. 2 with a win over the Tigers, coupled with a loss by Lyndon (13-6) in the Vikings’ finale.
Meanwhile, the 8-10 Tigers have plenty at stake: They could move up from No. 5 to No. 4 with a win.
Coach Connie LaRose said Thursday’s visit by MUHS will be a good tune-up for the postseason.
“That’s the kind of game you need to prepare for the tournament,” LaRose said.
She viewed Tuesday’s win as a mixed bag.
“I saw some good things. I saw some things we certainly need to tweak a little bit,” LaRose said.
On the plus side of the ledger were the defense of her backcourt and the effectiveness of the press. Four players combined for 18 steals: starting guards Jenn Loyer (seven) and Sara Sayles (three), reserve forward Casey Ogden (five) and reserve guard Ashlie Fay (three).
“I was pleased with how the press went,” LaRose said.
The Eagles also got good overall production from the bench: Casey Ogden scored 10, four in the fourth quarter; Megan Ogden tallied four; and Fay added five rebounds, tying forwards Lydia Stearns and K.C. Cousineau for the team high.
LaRose believes her frontcourt must be more productive offensively and active defensively, however.
“Post play does have to be better for us to compete in the tournament,” she said.
LaRose also still wants more help for Loyer in the backcourt to allow her senior standout to do more scoring.
“We’re asking her to do too many things,” she said.
Still, the Eagles had the answers when it mattered on Tuesday. The game was tied at 6-6 after one quarter, and the Eagles led by two at the half, 17-15. Milton knotted the score at 26-26 entering the fourth quarter, and then the Eagles took over.
In the period, Sayles scored six of her eight points, and Stearns tallied five of her eight. With Ogden scoring four, that left Loyer to score the only other two points, and LaRose said they were crucial.
With about three minutes to go, the Eagles led by seven. Sayles converted a tough layup while being fouled, but missed the free throw. Loyer (12 points, six assists, four rebounds) grabbed the board and put it in, and suddenly the Eagle lead was a safe 11.
LaRose said Loyer also contributed key assists and came up with several loose balls to spark the Eagles’ late surge.
“Jenn kind of took charge,” LaRose said. “She had a strong fourth quarter.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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