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Eagles hang on to edge Mill River

BRISTOL — Saturday’s high school girls’ basketball game between Mount Abraham and Mill River started out looking like a breeze for the host Eagles, but it ended with the Eagles having to make several clutch plays in the final minutes to pull out a 37-35 win.
In the opener for both squads, Mount Abe allowed MRU to score just three first-half hoops on the way to a 21-11 lead at the break.
But the Minutemen steadily chipped away in the second half as the Eagles went cold from the floor. Finally, MRU took a pair of two-point leads in the fourth quarter. The first, 31-29, came at 3:30 after two three-pointers from Nicole Ames and one from Maureen Taggart capped a 9-0 run that erased a 29-22 Eagle lead after three periods.
Jumpers from Eagle senior guard Sara Sayles and senior center Lydia Stearns restored the Eagle lead, 33-31, at 2:45, but a jumper by Amber Hinterneder and a putback by Alyssa Turgeon at 1:10 again gave MRU the advantage, 35-33, at 1:10.
Then Stearns snuck in on the weak side for a putback at 0:40 to tie the game at 35-35. At the other end, sophomore guard Ashlie Fay took a charge to create an MRU turnover, but missed the free throw that followed. However, senior forward Megan Ogden grabbed the rebound to keep the ball for the Eagles.
The Eagles then missed another jumper, but Stearns again snared the miss and put it back in at 0:25 to make it 37-35.
The Minutemen tried to run for a quick shot, but Stearns was waiting for Turgeon and swatted her shot away. Ogden grabbed the loose ball and was fouled at 0:11.7. She, too, missed — Mount Abe was just five-for-12 from the line — but the Eagles did not allow the Minutemen to get off a shot that even hit the rim as time expired.
Coach Connie LaRose said although “it’s always nice to coast,” pulling out a win like Saturday’s could give the Eagles a shot of confidence.
“These are the kind of games, that, you know, you survive one of these early on, and maybe you figure out you can do it,” LaRose said.
Another encouraging aspect of Saturday’s win came from the Eagles’ display of depth. By the end of the first quarter, when the score was 12-6, Mount Abe, eight Eagles had played. LaRose then started her remaining three athletes in the second quarter, and the lead grew to 21-11 at the half.
“Every single kid, all 11, contributed something to the win. That’s kind of like how you would like to draw it up,” LaRose said.
Eight Eagles scored: Stearns (12); sophomore point guard Ashlie Fay (eight, mostly by finishing on the fast break); Sayles and sophomore guard Meghan Livingston (four each), junior guard Chelsea Rublee (three), and senior forwards Megan and Casey Ogden and sophomore forward Jessie Martin (two apiece). Ames led MRU with 11 points.
Sayles and senior guard Amber Fay (four steals apiece) and Ashlie Fay (three) led an Eagle defense that forced 22 MRU turnovers. The taller Minutemen held a 31-28 edge on the boards; Ashlie Fay (seven rebounds), Megan Ogden (five) and Stearns (four) helped Mount Abe hold its own on the glass. Casey Ogden picked up four assists, and Ashlie Fay and Sayles had three apiece as the Eagles shared the ball well.
Eagle junior guard Lizzie Huizenga and junior forward Jordan Emmons saw their extended minutes in the second quarter, helping to key a defensive effort that forced seven MRU turnovers and held MRU to five points in the period. Emmons also contributed a nice bounce pass to set up Livingston’s baseline jumper.
Overall, LaRose would have liked to have seen a little bit crisper offense, especially in the third quarter, when the Eagles committed most of their 19 turnovers as MRU crept back into the game.
And it would have been nice to see a few of their open shots fall.
“We got impatient at times, maybe rushed a few shots,” LaRose sad. “But … I don’t think we necessarily took bad shots. I think we maybe just hurried them a little bit.”
To sum up, LaRose saw Saturday’s win as a good start for what she believes is a promising season.
“Certainly we have lots of room for improvement,” she said. “But we have lots of things to feel good about, too.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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