In boys’ hoop, Commodores too much for Mt. Abe

BRISTOL — Two boys’ basketball teams experiencing different seasons, Vergennes and Mount Abraham, met in the Mount Abraham Union High School gym on Tuesday, and unfortunately for the host Eagles, the trends continued.
The Commodores took control with a 22-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters, and they improved to 10-1 with a 68-20 victory.
“I like our guys,” said VUHS Coach Peter Quinn. “They have good team spirit. They pull for each other. They’re having fun, and they’re playing better.”
But Coach Mike Estey’s Eagles dropped to 0-11 with another frustrating evening. They are a young team, and even their upperclassmen have limited varsity experience.
Still, Estey would like to see more.
“We’re still talking to them about defensive intensity. It’s not there right now,” Estey said. “We’ll come in tomorrow and try to work defensively. It’s an attitude. It’s an effort.”
The first few minutes were evenly played. VUHS led, 8-4, with 4:35 gone, but the Eagles were competing on the boards and missed a few makeable shots early on.
But then the bottom dropped out. After Eagle freshman Jackson Counter’s third-chance hoop made it 8-4, the Commodores’ surge began. The next Eagle points came at 4:06 of the second, when sophomore Coleman Russell swished two free throws to make it 30-6.
VERGENNES UNION HIGH School sophomore Adam Gill races into the paint ahead of Mount Abraham Union High School sophomore Jack Willis. Gill scored a game-high 14 points in the Commodores’ 68-20 win. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The run began with a putback by Commodore senior center Wesley Miedema (10 points, seven blocked shots), and then junior Aaron Brooks (nine points, 6 rebounds) hit a jumper. Junior forward Josh Dam (seven points, six boards) and senior guard Liam Hayes closed out the quarter: Hayes set up Dam on the break and then converted his own missed shot on the offensive glass, and then Dam hit a three-pointer to make it 19-4 after one.
VUHS then opened the second period on an 11-0 run, with sophomore guard Adam Gill (a game-high 14 off the bench) hitting two threes and a driving layup, Miedema converting in the post, and junior forward Bradley Sturtevant chipping in a free throw.
It was 30-4 before Russell hit his free throws, and then the Commodores closed the half with a 9-0 run: Gill hit another three, Miedema scored on the break, junior forward Silas Mullin scored inside on a nice feed from Dam, and Tyler Kepes capped the run with a move to the hoop.
At 39-6, the second half was academic. Eagle highlights included a pair of third-quarter threes by senior guard Joey Payea, and the work of sophomore forwards Finn Clements (four points, four rebounds) and Ryan Thompson in the fourth quarter. Clements scored both his hoops in the period, one on a nice feed from Thompson, and he grabbed an offensive board to set up a short Thompson jumper.
Eagle senior forwards Ty Combs and Tyrus Keith chipped in three points apiece, and Russell also scored three before leaving with a third-period ankle sprain. Sophomore guard Jack Willis snared a team-high five boards, and Counter added four rebounds.
Estey lamented the many open Eagle shots that didn’t fall, although he gave credit to the VUHS defense.
“They didn’t fall at all. And they’re big, and we got a bunch of shots blocked, and they played well. And then it just snowballed,” he said.
But Estey said points would be easier to come by with better defense.
“We’ve got to play tougher defensively, because we don’t score. And we might get some hoops off some hard defense. The offense will come off the defense,” he said.
Quinn said he has been pleased with his team’s defense, keyed by Miedema in the middle and pressure by his guards.
“We play pretty good in the man-to-man. I’m pretty happy with them,” he said.
The VUHS bench had good moments on Tuesday as well, notably with six points apiece from juniors Josh Lorrain and Brett Woods and strong work on the boards from junior guard Bassim Bunde.
All the Commodores stuck to running the offense, too, he said, and he was pleased they piled up a 17-rebound edge on Mount Abe, including team rebounds. 
“I was happy to get everyone in for the first time this year,” he said. “They tried to execute the offense, and did a pretty good job.”
Quinn said the Commodores are gradually improving as they keep their larger goal in mind: One of the Division II Final Four playoff berths in Barre.
“We want to be top four. If you’re top four, you get the two home games,” he said. “And who cares who you play in the semis, really? If there’s a team that is better than everyone, you’re going to have to beat them sometime, so who cares if you play them in the semis or the finals?”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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