Best of the Boys: Independent names basketball all-stars

ADDISON COUNTY — Although probably none of the area high school boys’ basketball teams will look back at this winter as memorable, the intermural competition among them often was; they seemed to bring out the best from each other, with 10 of their collective 18 wins coming locally, often in close games.
Mount Abraham nearly toppled Middlebury, while Otter Valley did upset the Tigers, played well against Vergennes and looked good defeating Mount Abe. Vergennes coasted vs. the Eagles, but both times the Commodores and Tigers met produced competitive games that came down to the final minute, with each team triumphing once.
And individual players on each team also excelled, earning spots on the 2016 Addison Independent Boys’ Basketball All-Star Team.
Coach Peter Quinn’s Vergennes group’s eight wins, including a 4-1 mark vs. area competition, led the local pack this year. Three Commodores earned nods on the Independent squad.
First-year Coach Kyle Lussier’s Middlebury squad finished strong, winning three of their final four regular-season games to finish with six wins, including a 3-2 mark locally. Two Tigers are also recognized here.
Coach Greg Hughes’ Otters won four times, but were also competitive in a number of other games, falling three times by either one or two points to highly rated teams. OV also went 3-1 vs. Addison County foes. A three-year Otter varsity player made this team for the first time.
First-year Eagle Coach Martin Clark saw the program fail to break into the win column for a second straight year, but the Eagles’ quality of play clearly took a step forward this winter. A young Eagle standout is honored here.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following, listed alphabetically:
JACKSON COUNTER, MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE.  Notes: Strong, athletic player with a versatile skillset that allows him to play multiple roles for the Eagles, most often playing on the wing … Averaged 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game … Can score inside or out, slash to the basket, or play in the post … Handles and passes the ball well enough to help against the press, hits the boards, and works hard on defense.
Clark’s Quotes: Jackson was the guy that made us competitive … Jackson rebounds very well, shoots very well … You could leave him on the floor with anybody and he would make them better … He was a solid defender … He’s fearless out there on the court … He’s learning the game … I have to tell myself he’s still a sophomore … He is our go-to guy for when the game gets critical. He’s the guy who steps up for us.” 
JOSH DAM, VUHS SENIOR.  Notes: Versatile forward who came on strong in the second half of the season, averaging double-digit scoring down the stretch … Finished with averages of 9.7 points, a team-high 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 steals … Made a team-high 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts, while also possessing a midrange jumper and a nice touch around the basket … Smart defender.
Quinn’s Quotes: “He’s a quiet leader. He worked hard. He takes responsibility for himself on and off the court … He worked really hard in the offseason to make himself a stronger, more agile player, and it showed … He probably improved over the course of the season more than anyone on the team … He was good inside and out. He had a pretty complete game.”
ADAM GILL, VUHS JUNIOR.  Notes: Led all local players with 16.4 points per game, and chipped in averages of 3.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds and a team-high 1.8 steals … Has three-point shooting range and sank 35.1 percent of his attempts from behind the arc … Has a quick first step and can also slash to the basket and finish in the paint, or pull up for a jumper … Effective in the open court on the break.
Quinn’s Quotes: “Adam’s fun to coach because he loves the game … He’s not afraid to put in the work … He has a nose for the basket …He works hard at getting better … He’s been kicked out of the gym more than anyone (for staying late) … He’s a good teammate … He’s a decent ballhandler, always improving.”
JONATHAN FITZCHARLES, MUHS SENIOR.  Notes: Tall, strong post player who proved to be a dominant rebounder and go-to scorer this winter … Averaged a team-high 9.5 points and a local high of 8.0 rebounds … Improved his touch around the basket and could also step out and hit jump shots and handle the ball… Hard-working defender who kept opposing big men in check.
Lussier’s Quotes: “Jonny really carried us, especially at the start of the season … We were rolling when Jonny was rolling … Jonny was an animal on the offensive and defensive boards … There weren’t too many guys this year Jon couldn’t match up with … He had really good court vision for a big guy … He was kind of the voice of the team … He was the one who helped keep everyone upbeat.”
NICK HOLMES, MUHS SENIOR.  Notes: Point guard and team leader who improved his play as the season progressed and made big plays as the Tigers won three of their final four … Finished with averages of 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists … Used his size effectively to post up opponents and step into passing lanes, especially on top of the Tiger zone … Good decision maker and ballhandler who can finish at the basket or hit from long range.
Lussier’s Quotes: “He really brought stability to the team … He was the guy we could count on to pull us together … One of the best we did all year was make thing Nick a hybrid point guard-post player late in the year … We always trusted his decisions … Defensively, Nick brought a lot of length … He was able to get his hands in and take away a lot of stuff around the perimeter.”
JOSH LORRAIN, VUHS SENIOR.  Notes: Steady interior contributor for the Commodores who averaged 8.8 points per game while shooting a team-best 54.6 percent from the floor … Could get hot and carry the team, scoring 26 in a win vs. South Burlington … Well-rounded player who added 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game and effort on interior defense, blocking 1.4 shots per game.
Quinn’s Quotes: “He’s a good team guy. He’s a good captain … He improved tremendously in his performance in a year’s time … He came a long way … He was a consistent presence for us, especially on the boards … He defended the basket. He was a helper on defense … He worked hard in the offseason to get stronger … He’s a natural leader.”
KAI NORWOOD, OV JUNIOR.  Notes:  Solid all-around player and three-year varsity athlete with good ballhandling skills and three-point shooting range … Strong finisher at the basket … Hard-working defender with quick hands … Came on strong as the season progressed and finished with a 10-point scoring average.
Hughes’ Quotes: “He played well and was a foundation for our team … He is able to do the things that the team needs in certain times as well as gave us a go-to person on the court … He showed a great mindset towards the end of the season, which is positive going into next year.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Wood, Mount Abe sophomore; Trey Kaufmann, MUHS junior; Josh Letourneau, OV sophomore, and Collin Eugair, OV senior; Dylan Bradford, VUHS junior.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]

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