VUHS boys’ basketball fend off Mount Abe
VERGENNES — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ basketball team on Friday hung with host Vergennes through most of three quarters, but the Commodores finally took charge for good with a game-closing 25-6 surge on the way to a 70-41 victory.
The Commodores continued their climb toward .500 by moving to 7-9 after a 1-6 start, while the Eagles dropped to 0-16 and hope to knock off visiting Middlebury on Wednesday.
First-year coach Martin Clark said the Eagles, who entered this season with limited varsity experience and started four juniors and a sophomore on Wednesday, continue to put out a good effort.
“They’re playing hard,” Clark said. “That’s all you can ask. They have a lot of heart. They’ve been through a lot this season, and they just continue to play hard. And they’re going to be rewarded for it someday. I hope it’s soon.”
The Eagles trailed by as many as 20 in Friday’s second quarter and by 35-18 at the half before sophomore forward Jackson Counter helped spark a third-quarter rally with seven of his team-high 13 points, two assists and strong rebounding.
Counter’s three-pointer at 0:30 made it 45-35, VUHS, and gave Mount Abe hope. But four VUHS throws made it 49-35 after three periods. Then VUHS opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run — including three hoops in the paint — in a span of 4:12.
“I’ve got to give it to the boys, they didn’t quit. And when we got it back within 10, I thought maybe we’d have a chance,” Clark said. “But then our shooting went away again, and they pulled away.”
VUHS, moved the ball quickly, something Coach Peter Quinn has been preaching all winter.
“One of our goals was not to score all our points off the dribble,” Quinn said. “So I was happy with our team play tonight. We moved the ball better. We played more unselfishly. We played with a little bit more trust in each other on the offensive end, which has also been a season-long goal for us.”
The result was a high assist-to-basket ratio, with junior guard Adam Gill and senior forward Josh Dam leading the way with four assists each and junior guard Hunter O’Connor adding three.
VUHS also picked up many points in the paint, led by senior Josh Lorrain’s 16, Dam’s 11 and senior Josh Newton’s six.
“We really had a plan to do inside on them, because we knew we had a little size on them, and there were stretches that were great,” Quinn said.
The plans’ byproduct was balanced scoring: O’Connor and junior guard Dylan Bradford added 10 points apiece, and Gill chipped in seven.
O’Connor and Bradford combined for 13 points in the first quarter, when VUHS took a 19-7 lead. Junior Eagle forward Finn Clements scored five of his team-high seven points in that period.
Lorrain and Dam teamed up for 10 of the 16 second-quarter VUHS points, with Dam adding assists to Newton and junior guard Devon Kimball, and Lorrain setting up cutting senior forward Bradley Sturtevant. For the Eagles, junior guard Coleman Russell stole the ball twice, Counter scored twice, and senior guard Tucker Paradee drained a buzzer-beating three.
Late in the third, O’Connor set up Dam inside and then drove for a bucket to make it 45-28 at 1:50, even though Mount Abe junior guard Chris Wood and Counter had each scored twice by then.
Then the Eagles struck back with a 7-0 run. Counter drove and dished to junior guard Andrew Cousino for two, junior forward Ryan Thompson sank two free throws at 0:53, and Counter swished a three at 0:30 to make it 45-35.
But the Eagles’ surge ended there, as they sent O’Connor and Gill to the line for successful free throws and a 14-point VUHS lead after three periods.
The Commodores soon put the game out of reach in the fourth. Lorrain sank a free throw; Dam hit in the post, from O’Connor; senior forward Silas Mullin and Lorrain both scored inside; and at 3:48 an O’Connor free throw made it 57-35.
Quinn noted the contributions from his role players — Newton, Sturtevant, Mullin, Brett Woods and Baldwin.
“We went deep into the bench, and everybody performed well,” he said.
For Mount Abe, Chris Wood and Paradee added six points apiece, and Wood, Clements and Thompson helped Counter hold their own on the boards.
“They’re a much taller, bigger, physical team than we are. We did a great job on the boards. That kept us in the game for a while. But in the end it was not enough,” Clark said.
Lorrain (12 rebounds) and Dam (eight) led VUHS on the boards. VUHS earned a 39-35 rebounding edge, including team rebounds.
Quinn hopes moving forward the Commodores will remember how effective their ball movement and inside game was on Friday.
“We have a chance to be above .500 still, which would be really good for us going into the playoffs, if we could go in on an up note with the sense we’re playing better as a team,” Quinn said. “We’ve got talent. We can score inside and out. We can defend. And we certainly can rebound. We have the makings of a playoff team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
See more photos from the game by clicking here.