Eagle girls’ basketball tunes up for tourney

BRISTOL — Like most nights for the Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team, Monday lacked drama: The Eagles rolled to a 25-2 second-quarter lead over visiting Missisquoi and coasted to a 54-12 win over the 1-14 T-Birds.
That’s the way it’s been in most of the 15-1 Eagles’ games: They have won 10 of their 15 games by 20 points or more, and 14 by at least 12. Otter Valley is the exception — OV came within 46-38 back on Dec. 19.
With Monday’s victory, Mount Abe has all but clinched a top-four seed in the Division II playoffs. To do so, the Eagles must win half of their remaining games, and two of them are against teams they have already defeated by at least 33 points.
But the Eagles would like to do better than that, specifically against the two best teams left on their schedule.
They play at 10-5 South Burlington this Thursday, and the Rebels’ eight-game winning streak includes a 52-48 victory at Mount Abe. Another game against a D-I team on the road, Colchester (9-6), also will pose a challenge, although the Eagles defeated the Lakers, 48-36, in Bristol.
Eagle senior forward and tri-captain Jessie Martin said they want to use the South Burlington and Colchester challenges as springboards into the D-II postseason — and she thinks they can win those games.
“I think everybody’s been working really hard, and I think that we can do it,” Martin said. “We can finish strong. That will be a really good way to head into playoffs, with those couple of tough wins under our belts so we’re ready to face the other tough teams in Division II.”
Senior guard and tri-captain Lizzie Huizenga was asked how she felt about the state of the Eagles, and she also brought up the Rebel and Laker measuring sticks.
“We’re doing pretty good. We’re still waiting to see how South Burlington and Colchester go. We’re pretty excited for that,” Huizenga said. “But we’re pretty positive moving forward.”
Coach Connie LaRose joined the chorus. Since her team lost to the Rebels at home on Jan. 18, the Eagles beat the Lakers on Jan. 30, also in Bristol. Their other four games since Jan. 18 were wins by 33, 44, 41, 35, and, on Monday, by 42 points.
LaRose said Mount Abe needs the challenges — which will also decide the Lake Division title.
“These are the tests. This is what you need to find out what you’re made of,” LaRose said.
She believes the Eagles will answer the call.
“We’ve had three challenging games to date, Fair Haven, South Burlington and Colchester. And we’ve responded well in all three considering we’re not playing that kind of competition game in and game out,” LaRose said.
Against overmatched teams like Missisquoi, Martin said the Eagles challenge themselves to hone their play as best they can.
“Coach is always telling us use them as an opportunity to practice the little things, do the little things right, which we talk about at practice,” Martin said. “We’re trying for perfection.”
On Monday, it was clear from the start the T-Birds had no chance. MVU did hit the boards hard in the first quarter, and Mount Abe missed a few shots and led after one by just 10, 12-2. Junior guard/forward Ashlie Fay scored six of her game-high 14, junior guard Meghan Livingston chipped in four of her 11 points, and Huizenga capped the quarter by converting a steal, one of nine MVU turnovers in the period.
Then the Eagle bench helped ground the T-Birds with a 13-0 run in the first 3:40 of the second quarter. Junior forward Megan Wetter converted two offensive boards, and junior guard Sam Driscoll (10 points) hit a three-pointer and a jumper off feeds from Fay, stole the ball and scored a lay-up, and then fed senior guard Chelsea Rublee on the break to make it 25-2. The Eagles cooled off a bit, and settled for a 25-5 lead at the half.
The Eagle subs played well overall, as Martin noted has been the case. 
“Having a deep bench is really important to our team,” she said. “Connie does a really good job of trying to get everybody in throughout the game, and I think tonight especially we got everybody in and everybody really had a chance to contribute positively.”
Mount Abe’s starters — with sophomore Isabel Brennan filling in for senior forward Jordan Emmons, who broke her nose in the first quarter, but could return vs. the Rebels — opened the second half with an 18-4 run. Fay (eight points, plus three of her six game-high six assists in the period), Brennan (six) and Livingston (four) combined for all the points in that surge, which put the Eagles on top, 43-9.
Sadie Reynolds, who led the T-Birds with six points, tossed in a layup to make it 43-11, but a Livingston trey and a Huizenga layup after a steal made it 48-11 after three periods. Driscoll and Wetter (seven points) outscored the T-Birds, 6-1, in the fourth to create the final score.
For Mount Abe, Fay added seven steals and four rebounds. Wetter pulled down seven boards as the Eagles battled back to control the glass. Rublee and Sara Cousino added four boards each, and Addy Campbell had three. Emmons had three steals before leaving, and Huizenga and Livingston each chipped in two assists.
In all, Huizenga said she is confident in this year’s edition of the Eagles moving forward.
“I have high hopes for this team,” she said. “I’m really excited for this year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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