Otter boys surge past host Tigers

MIDDLEBURY — With 3:10 gone in the third quarter of Tuesday’s home game against Otter Valley, junior Middlebury Union High School guard Cody Pomainville fed senior forward Spencer Carpenter on the break to give the Tiger boys a 36-31 lead. Chances looked good for the Tigers’ first win in three tries.
But OV junior guard Josh Letourneau’s three-pointer with 2:10 gone in the fourth quarter capped an improbable 27-7 run that made the score 58-43, Otters. In that surge OV senior guard Derek Aines scored 14 of his 33 points, junior guard Payson Williams tallied seven of his 22, and Letourneau six of his nine.
The Tigers finally fought back, forcing four OV turnovers in the fourth quarter and going on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 58-51 with 1:58 left in the game. Seniors Trey Kaufmann and Pierson Beatty converted offensive rebounds in that stretch, Pomainville went coast-to-coast and scored in the lane, and Carpenter and junior guard J.D. Goettelmann each hit free throws.
And they forced a turnover after Goettelmann’s free throw at 1:58 cut the lead to seven. But they immediately turned the ball back over to the Otters. The Tigers then had to foul, and Aines made eight for 10 from the line in the final 1:45 to seal the win, 66-53.
The Otters moved to 2-1 with the victory, which came after their first win, 37-35 on the previous Friday over Division III Twin Valley. Aines — who sank five three-pointers — said Tuesday’s result should give a lift to the Otters, who are determined to improve over this past winter’s four-win campaign.
“It gives us momentum for the season,” Aines said. “We’re trying to pick it up this year.”
OV Coach Greg Hughes was not happy with his team’s play vs. Twin Valley, but saw Tuesday as a step forward.
“The start of the game, the first quarter, I felt pretty much the same about the way we were playing,” Hughes said. “But we started kicking in past the last three, four minutes of the second quarter, when we actually started playing basketball, and the third quarter, we actually started playing basketball at times. In the fourth quarter we finished out well. It just gives us a little more comfort and confidence in how we can play. I think we have a skilled team. We just have to be confident when we do stuff.”
MUHS Coach Kyle Lussier saw his team start out strong, outrebounding OV in the first quarter by 14-8 and forcing six turnovers in taking a 17-11 lead after eight minutes. The Tigers essentially maintained that advantage until the third period even though the Otters started to play better.
Lussier deployed two defenses, a 1-3-1 zone and man-to-man, but neither worked well in the second half.
“We left Aines open too much. That’s what we did wrong. We got flat-footed,” Lussier said.
He believed it also took too long for the Tigers to respond to the Otters’ big surge.
“We couldn’t react when they made a run,” Lussier said. “We just let them go at it. I think that’s the biggest thing. We couldn’t react to their shooters making shots.”
Kaufmann (19 points, 15 rebounds) and Beatty (11 points, seven in the first half, plus seven rebounds) had a lot to do with the Tigers’ 30-26 halftime lead. Kaufmann scored eight in the first period, including six straight to erase a 5-3 OV lead, and at the end of the second period scored in the lane after a Carpenter offensive board and fed Beatty for a breakaway buzzer-beating layup.
Aines and Williams combined for 21 of OV’s 26 first-half points. Critically, after the six first-quarter turnovers, the Otters committed none in the second and then three in the third as they took control. 
“It was only our third game, so I think we were a little bit nervous,” Aines said. “Once we got settled in I think we did better.”
Also, after the Tigers earned a 24-16 edge on the boards, including team rebounds, in the first half, the smaller Otters held the advantage after the break, 25-23. Senior Tyler Peterson and sophomore Tyler Rowe joined Aines and Williams doing good work on the boards.
“We picked it up on getting defensive boards and just pushed it from there straight to our offense,” Aines said.
Hughes said the Otters also did a better job playing hard on defense and on the boards even when their offense wasn’t clicking.
“When we start missing (shots), we start missing everywhere. Rebounds, turnovers, it just goes downhill. But when we’re shooting well, then we start picking it up. We start playing harder. And it’s a mindset we need to start creating without those shots going in,” he said. “But they definitely played well-rounded. They passed the ball. Once they figured out where the openings were, things started rolling.”
Lussier was looking for the Tigers, who have a challenging non-league schedule to open their season, to respond when they hosted BFA-St. Albans on Wednesday after the deadline for this edition of the Independent.
“We’ve got to get five guys on the same page, busting their butts, doing what we’re asking them to do consistently,” Lussier said. “Once we can get that, get some more life, get some guys believing in what they’re doing a little more, we’ll be on the right track.” 

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