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Commodore boys basketball team tips Tigers in round two rivaly

VERGENNES — Round Two also went to the Commodores.
The host Vergennes Union High School boys’ basketball team on Tuesday scored the final 12 points of the fourth quarter as VUHS remained undefeated with a 52-36 victory that gave them a season sweep of the Middlebury Union High School Tigers.
The 19-0 Commodores have clinched the top seed for the upcoming Division II post-season tournament, and they will try to complete a 20-0 regular season on Friday at Missisquoi Valley (12-7).
VUHS Coach Peter Quinn noted on Tuesday the emotion will be running high at MVU, where T-Bird standout senior Matt St. Amour will enter the contest 22 points short of 2,000 for his career.
But Quinn said the Commodores will be prepared.
“We’re not taking anything for granted on Friday. That’s their senior night, the greatest basketball player they’ve ever had, his last game,” he said. “So we’ll come in ready.”
It also helps, Quinn said, that his team is playing its best man-to-man defense of the winter. He has asked them to be disciplined rather than gamble on steals, and they held the 14-5 Tigers to a season-low point total.
“People aren’t gambling. As long as people aren’t gambling and are forcing people to have to beat us, we’re tough, because our guys know what they’re doing out there,” Quinn said. “We did that, and Middlebury had to earn their shots tonight.”
Tiger coach Chris Altemose appreciated that his team also held the Commodores to a point total that equaled their season low. But he had expected more out of his offense, which did appear tentative at times, if also unlucky — several shots rolled off the rim.
“Defensively we were good. We got off to the start we wanted to get off to,” Altemose said. “We just can’t score 36 points and expect to win very many games.”
The Tigers can unofficially still nail down the No. 4 seed in D-I by defeating visiting BFA-St. Albans on Friday. The Tigers lost at BFA, but were shorthanded in that game and will be confident in the rematch.
“We have to win that one,” Altemose said. “We can. We’ve just got to put the ball in the hole a little better.”
Certainly, Quinn is a believer.
“I could say some of the same things about Middlebury I just said about my team,” Quinn said. “They played really tough D.”
Buckets were hard to come by throughout, except for VUHS center Stanley Salley (18 points, a game high, plus nine boards) in the first period. He hit his first four shots, and Devin Hayes came off the bench for a strong drive and an assist to Dan McGrath to help VUHS lead by 12-11 after one.
Tyler Provencher scored four of his 11 for MUHS, while Connor Collins scored a bucket and set up two hoops, including Marrott Weekes’ three-point play. Freshman Perry DeLorenzo (11 points) also came off the bench to hit a jumper in the period, and his defense slowed Salley down.
After a Zach Ouellette jumper put VUHS up by three to open the second quarter, a DeLorenzo trey tied the game and Collins hit on the break to put MUHS up, 16-14. Stanley converted a three-point play to put the Commodores up by one, after which Collins responded by going coast-to-coast at 4:40 to make it 18-17, MUHS.
But then the Tigers went scoreless for the remainder of the period while VUHS put 10 points on the board to lead at the break, 27-18.
Ouellette (13 points, six rebounds, three assists) sank a three at 4:20 to restore the VUHS lead, Hayes drove for two, Salley hit in the post, and Cody Quattrocci sank a three after a late Tiger turnover.
Charlie Stapleford opened the second half with a trey, and the Commodore lead was 12. MUHS fought back with a 9-2 run that included two DeLorenzo treys, the second of which energized the Tiger fans in the packed house at the four-minute mark.
But MUHS again began to miss the mark, and Ouellette scored six straight points, two off a Shep Carter steal and assist, to push the VUHS lead back up to 38-27. Weekes converted a putback to make it 38-29 entering the fourth.
Quattrocci (six points, seven assists, six rebounds) opened the fourth with a hoop on a Carter feed to make it 40-29, but the Tigers made one more run. Provencher sank a three and added a putback, and Collins (eight points) hit two free throws after a steal at 6:05 to make it 40-36.
Then came a huge momentum swing. VUHS missed, and Provencher had another open look at a trey. The ball went halfway down, but popped back out. At the other end, Stapleford and Carter hit treys on consecutive trips while the Tiger shots refused to fall, and the Commodores controlled their defensive boards.
With 4:10 to go, it was 46-36, and the Tigers could not get the ball in the basket again. Salley scored five of the six VUHS points down the stretch as the Commodores pulled away.
MUHS did a few things right: defense; a better start than in the first duel, when they trailed by 17 early before rallying; and fewer turnovers, 11.
Altemose credited the Commodores.
“They’re good. It’s a tough place to play, a great crowd, a fun game. My guys played hard. I do think we played really good D. We battled on the boards. We did take care of the ball,” Altemose said. “We’ve just got to make the buckets a little better. We missed a couple layups in first half, and in the second half I thought Vergennes did a really nice job on their defensive boards.”
Carter noted the Commodore and Tiger seniors have been playing each other since their elementary school years.
“This is the last chance we’ll have to play Middlebury, and the rivalry we have with Middlebury is just unbelievable,” Carter said. “I love playing those guys, and I’m sure they love playing us. It’s always a fun rivalry.”
And he said the Commodores are playing with a high level of belief in themselves and in each other.
“We’re starting to peak right now, which is really nice going into the playoffs,” he said. “I think this is our year, and we’re very confident as a team.”
Quinn noted his team’s ball movement — and just five turnovers on Tuesday — and balanced scoring as well as the overall quality of its play down the stretch.
“We’re healthy, we’re playing well, we’re playing unselfishly,” he said. “They’re hungry. It’s what we want.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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