Tigers sink Commodores for the Lake Division lead
MIDDLEBURY — Entering Tuesday’s home game with first place in the Lake Division on the line, Middlebury Union High School boys’ basketball coach Chris Altemose had points of emphasis for his Tigers.
To defeat a Commodore team that came to MUHS at 12-1, Altemose told the Tigers they would have to be solid defensively, particularly in keeping the VUHS ballhandlers in front of them; play at their preferred fast pace, but still make sure to get back and deny the Commodores in transition; and focus on rebounding.
The Tigers put checkmarks in all those boxes, and with junior guard Oakley Gordon tossing in 30 points and senior forward Austin Robinson hauling down 22 rebounds, MUHS earned a 70-50 win.
“I thought all those things happened nicely,” said Altemose, whose team improved to 11-4 overall and 5-0 in the Lake. “Especially the rebounds and running the floor.”
Robinson, whose work helped MUHS gain a 50-36 edge on the boards, said the Tigers relied on the formula that has fueled a winning streak that has stretched to five games.
“We just keep playing hard. I think it’s key we have five guys out there always looking to push the ball and always looking to score,” Robinson said. “And we have depth coming off the bench, and I don’t think there are too many teams that can stick with us for 32 minutes.”
On the flip side, the Commodores saw their five-game winning streak snapped and suffered their first league loss. They remain unbeaten in D-II, where they sat in third place as of Wednesday with tough home games vs. St. Albans and Missisquoi on tap on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
VUHS coach Peter Quinn praised the Tigers, but was less happy with his team.
“They outplayed us. They just wanted it way more than we did, and they played way harder than we did,” Quinn said. “Hats off to Middlebury. They wanted to win. They played really well, I thought.”
His important message to the Commodores came after the game.
“If you want to win a championship, which because we play in D-II we still have a shot at, we’ve got to play harder than we did tonight,” Quinn said. “So in that sense it was a good lesson for us.”
COMMODORE SOPHOMORE ADAM Gill tries to slip a shot between Tiger defenders Jackson Hounchell and Trey Kaufmann Tuesday in Middlebury. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
VUHS took its only leads early in the first period, on the first of Dylan Raymond’s three three-pointers and then at 5-2 when center Wesley Miedema hit in the post for the first of his team-high 12 points.
But MUHS took the lead for good at 4:20, 6-5, on Connor Quinn’s second jumper of the quarter. Then Gordon hit a three, and Jack Hounchell came off the bench to drive for one bucket and set up another Tiger sub, forward Trey Kaufmann, for a late hoop that made it 13-10 after one period. For VUHS, Raymond hit another three, and Liam Hayes scored on the break and set up two hoops in the period.
The second quarter was a scoring duel between Miedema, who connected four times in the post, twice on feeds from Adam Gill, and Gordon, who sank two threes, four free throws and a pull-up jumper in the lane. Before anyone else scored, MUHS led, 25-18.
Hounchell joined the point parade at 3:05 when he converted on the break on one of Bobby Ritter’s six assists. As the quarter wound down for VUHS, forward Josh Dam hit a jumper and two free throws, Hayes sank two from the line and Raymond’s final three made it 35-27 at 1:25.
The Tigers got more points from Gordon, Robinson and Kaufmann, plus a three from Bryce Burrell. After Raymond’s three, Robinson went coast-to-coast with a rebound, and it was 37-27, MUHS, at the break.
The Tigers’ lead peaked in the third at 57-41 on a Burrell three. VUHS stayed in striking range because Dam hit back-to-back threes, Gill scored four, and Hayes hit a layup after winning a battle for a loose ball. Hayes closed the quarter with a three to make it 57-44.
Two Gill free throws at 6:03 of fourth cut the lead to 11, but the Tigers put the game away with an 8-0 run over the next 3:25. Quinn and Robinson sank a free throw each, Gordon hit two from the line and a drive, and Burrell converted in the post as MUHS pulled away.
“They’re a good team, but I think we did a good job matching up with them,” Robinson said. “They were tough, but we did it.”
Miedema added seven rebounds and several blocked and changed shots to his team-high point total. Dam and Gill scored 10 apiece, and Hayes and Raymond finished with nine each. Hayes added four boards, and he, Gill, Raymond and Scott Gaines each picked up two assists.
The Commodores now have to run the table and, if no one upsets the Tigers, get help to do better than earn a tie for the Lake title.
“We have to beat them and beat everyone else now,” Quinn said. “There’s no margin for error.”
For MUHS, Burrell chipped in 10 points and six boards; Quinn, six points and three boards; and Hounchell, six points, three rebounds and two steals. Gordon added seven rebounds.
Altemose noted the Tigers went 10 deep on Tuesday in the first half alone, with forwards Sam Holmes and Jonathan Fitzcharles and guard Cullen Hathaway also contributing off the bench.
“To play at the tempo we want to play, we’ve got to go deep,” Altemose said. “The guys coming in off the bench have really bought into their roles and are ready to go when they’re called upon and have really given us some quality minutes.”
Robinson said the Tigers “pride ourselves on being scrappy and playing with a lot of heart,” and Altemose praised their grit.
“We’re a tough, scrappy, hustling team and find a way to get it done,” Altemose said.
The Tigers are well aware they are 5-0 in Lake play.
“We’re keeping a tab on the board here,” Altemose said. “It’s something they’re really striving for, but obviously you can’t focus on that. You’ve got to focus on one day at a time and take every game as it comes. We’ve got some tough games down the stretch here. We’ve just got to take care of business and keep getting better every day.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]
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