Eagle girls soar over Commodores

BRISTOL – The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team started fast against visiting Vergennes on Friday and coasted to a 44-18 victory, which pushed the Eagles to 10-1 just past their season’s midpoint.
Six Eagles, including all five starters, scored in the opening quarter and their press forced 11 VUHS turnovers as they took an 18-5 lead after one.
Senior forward Casey Ogden, who scored all six of her points in the opening period, said the Eagles – who dressed in pink to honor the Coaches vs. Cancer effort – wanted to get off to a fast start against the upset-minded Commodores.
“We knew it was an important game,” Ogden said. “It’s Coaches vs. Cancer night, and Vergennes is a good rival, so we wanted to get out there and attack them first and get a good lead … and try to play some good, decent basketball.”
By the end of the game, 11 Eagles had scored, topped by sophomore Ashlie Fay’s seven, and six apiece from seniors Lydia Stearns, Sara Sayles and Megan Ogden, Casey’s twin sister.
The Eagles’ depth has made a difference this year, said Coach Connie LaRose.
“We have a lot of different kids contributing on a lot of different nights,” LaRose said.
Meanwhile, Coach Billy Waller’s Commodores — who broke through for their first win two days before, 53-20 over Missisquoi — dropped to 1-7.
VUHS has been a bit unlucky: Senior center Hannah Curler missed time with an injury; sophomore guard Ruby Dombek has also missed games, including Friday’s, due to scheduling conflicts with the VUHS music program; and bad weather has postponed three of the Commodores’ games. 
On Friday, VUHS was further hampered when both Curler and senior point guard Tabby Danyow picked up their third fouls before the midpoint of the second quarter.
Still, Waller said before the game that his team has remained focused, has kept working, and remained “on an even keel” emotionally despite the misfortune.
One bright spot for VUHS on Friday came on the boards: The Commodores outrebounded Mount Abe, 32-27, with senior forward Chelsea Grant doing good work. Grant also scored a game-high 10 points. Junior forward Caitlin Chaput also rebounded well, and senior forward Amber Dow picked up a couple assists.
But it was the Eagles’ night. After the starting five handed off the 18-5 first-quarter lead, the Mount Abe bench extended the margin to 28-9 at the half, even though LaRose called off the press early in the quarter. Balanced scoring again helped Mount Abe, with five players scoring in the period and only Grant converting for VUHS.
Stearns hit in the post to make it 30-9 to open the second half, and then a hoop by Grant and a Chaput free throw made it 30-12. The Eagles responded with a 10-0 run to settle matters, with four points each from Fay and Sayles and another hoop inside from Stearns.
Sayles and Fay led the Eagles with five assists each, while Fay led Mount Abe with seven steals, and senior guard Amber Fay and Casey Ogden added three apiece. Junior forward Jessie Martin led Mount Abe with seven boards off the bench.
LaRose said the Eagles, who will face tough tests this week at Milton and Colchester, still need to work on using their quickness to rebound better, but their work is starting to pay off in other departments.
 “We’ve been consistently improving at some of the things we need to work on, free throw shooting for the most part has been much better. Our press needed some tweaking and I think we’ve corrected a lot of that,” LaRose said.
Casey Ogden said the willingness to put in the required effort is just one thing the Eagles have going for them this winter.
 “We’ve got some good team chemistry,” Ogden said. “Connie is letting us know what we’ve got to work on, and we do it. We’re really focused, and we’re really enjoying things. So we just go out there and try to get things done and have fun.”
Mount Abe lost in the Division II final in 2011, and Ogden said the Eagles feel if they keep working they could get another shot.
“We’re hoping to go back to Barre,” Ogden said. “We want to get back there, and we’re doing well so far.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].           

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