OV boys fall short in first round

BRANDON — A Mount St. Joseph boys’ basketball team with a misleading 6-14 record and No. 11 seed in Division II knocked No. 6 Otter Valley Union High School out of the playoffs on Tuesday, 60-32, in a first-round game at OV.
The Otters led just once, 3-2, at 6:40 of the first period on a Connor Gallipo three-pointer, and could never get going offensively against the box-and-one defense that the Mounties used to keep high-scoring OV junior John Winslow in check and off the offensive boards.
“I think that was a big factor, especially when they got Johnny out of the rebounding mix,” said OV coach Greg Hughes. “I think they did a good job of keeping him off the backboards, and that slowed us down. That’s what we do best, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.”
But an even bigger factor might have been that MSJ is simply better than its record. The Mounties played nine D-I games this season: undefeated Burr & Burton three times (taking the Bulldogs to overtime once), and Rutland, Brattleboro and Mount Anthony twice apiece. Only four of their games came against D-III or IV foes.
By contrast, the Otters, who finished at 11-10 after a 2-7 start, played two D-I foes and 11 D-III or IV games. Hughes came away impressed by the Mounties’ size, shooting and ballhandling, and thinks they could fare well in their upcoming quarterfinal at Woodstock — and maybe beyond.
“They’re definitely not an 11 seed, that’s for sure,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go a lot further than a couple rounds. They have all the weapons. They have bigs that can post you up. They can shoot.”
The closest quarter was the first, after which MSJ led, 14-8, despite five late points from Winslow. The Mounties scored 11 of their 14 points in the paint, six from lefty post player David Perry, who finished with 22. Zachary Lanzillo, a six-five forward, contributed a three-pointer in the period, but more notably blocked several shots in the quarter and changed OV shots all night.
A sloppier second quarter saw the teams combine for a dozen turnovers, seven from MSJ, but the Otters couldn’t take advantage. MSJ hurried their shots, and OV just couldn’t get open looks to drop. The Mounties slowly extended their lead to 23-10 at the half as the Otters scored just two points in the quarter.
“There really wasn’t much going our way,” Hughes said. “We weren’t catching onto the ball. We weren’t shooting the ball good. We weren’t attacking the rim.”
Collin Eugair (six points, nine rebounds) brought the Otters to within nine by opening the second half with a putback, but the Otters turned the ball over four times in the first 2:10 and missed two layups to spoil a chance to get back in the game.
At the other end, Lanzillo (nine points) scored on the break, Henry Katorski hit a pull-up in the lane, and Kyle Cassarino sank a trey and then two free throws at 3:20. By then, OV had answered with only two Eugair free throws, and MSJ led by 35-14. The Otters came no closer than 20 points the rest of the way.
Winslow finished with 11 points and 10 boards to lead OV, and Carson Leary chipped in with nine rebounds. Good shooters like guards Gallipo (five points) and Kai Norwood (three points) found baskets hard to come by. Guard Emmett Thurston chipped in four points off the bench.
The Otters finished the season strong to earn their No. 6 seed, and Hughes said their youth helped them once they started winning. But the lack of experience probably hurt in Tuesday’s playoff game, he said.
“Usually when you have an older team, when you’re going through a drought, that’s what they have to pick them up. We don’t have that right yet,” he said. “But the fact we got on a roll and kept on it, that’s great for a young team.”
OV does not have a senior on the roster, and the team was already talking about next year after the game.
“That’s what we said. We said our season is not ending now, it’s starting,” Hughes said. “If they want to get in the gym, we’re going to be a tough team next year. It’s exciting.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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