Undefeated West Rutland edges Otter Valley in girls’ basketball
BRANDON — The visiting West Rutland High School girls’ basketball team’s surge in the middle of Monday’s fourth quarter proved to be just enough to allow the undefeated Golden Horde to edge Otter Valley, 32-31, in a defensive battle.
The 2-4 Otters crashed the boards for four second-chance points to take the lead as the final quarter opened. After the Otters missed twice but grabbed the rebounds, senior Sophia Bloomer hit a jumper to make it 22-21, OV, a minute into the period. At 5:45, sophomore forward Sophie Markowski followed with a putback, and OV led by three.
West Rutland senior Kelsey Wedin then cashed in at the bank to restore her team’s lead. First, Wedin flipped in a runner off the backboard to make it 24-23. After OV junior forward Gabriela Poalino’s free throw at 3:45 gave OV a two-point lead, Wedin answered with a three-pointer that banked in at 3:20 to put the Golden Horde on top for good, 26-25.
The first was a great shot. Wedin admitted good fortune helped guide her second hoop.
“There is no way I was trying to hit that one off the glass,” said Wedin, who scored a team-high eight points, six in the fourth quarter.
Next, West Rutland 1,000-point scorer Brooke Raiche finally broke free of OV sophomore Julia Lee’s defense to swish a step-back three-pointer at 2:28, and the lead was 29-25. At 1:50, Raiche drained two free throws, and it was 31-25.
In a game in which each team scored just six points apiece in the each of the second and third quarters, a six-point lead seemed like a safe advantage.
It was, but just barely.
The Otters at first kept trying to force the ball inside, a tactic that had produced mixed results on Monday as the Horde kept collapsing around Poalino, OV’s leading scorer, who managed 11 points, mostly on offensive rebounds. But West Rutland continued to allow open looks from the perimeter, and finally senior guard Courtney Bushey launched from the top of the key — and swished at 0:20, to make it 31-28.
Wedin hit the first of two free throws at 0:17, and OV rebounded the second and raced down the court. At 0:05, Lee launched from long range, and the bank was open for her, too: Her 25-foot three-pointer hit the backboard and ricocheted home to make it 32-31. But the 6-0 Horde successfully inbounded to Raiche, and she eluded OV’s attempts to foul her and stop the clock as time expired.
OV Coach Steve Keith praised his team’s defensive effort, particularly in holding Raiche to six points.
“It was a terrific job by our kids. We really tried to limit (Raiche’s) possessions, how much she was going to impact the game, and we did. We certainly made her work for everything she got,” Keith said.
He singled out Lee, who also scored seven points, for her work at both ends.
“She played a terrific game. She took what they gave her offensively, and defensively she was all over her (Raiche) tonight,” Keith said.
Points were hard to come by all night. After leading after one period, 9-8, the Horde got a lift from senior forward Kayla Coombs, who scored inside twice in the second. But a jumper by senior forward Julia May was the only other offense the Horde could muster in the period.
At that point West Rutland was dominating the boards, but Poalino and Bloomer (seven points overall) responded and combined for six second-chance points in the quarter to make it 15-14, Horde at the half.
West Rutland got a lift from senior guard Lauren Harvey (six points overall) in the third. Four Harvey points and a Wedin runner offset another Poalino putback and gave the Horde a 21-16 lead midway through the quarter. But OV dug in on defense, and held the Horde scoreless for the final 4:10 of the period. A Lee drive and two Poalino free throws made it 21-20, West Rutland, heading into the fourth-quarter drama.
Keith said the Otters will be looking to open up on offense and shoot more from the outside if teams continue to try to deny their inside game, particularly Poalino, who was coming off a 22-point game vs. Springfield on Saturday.
“We know we’ve got good shooters, and they can certainly pull the trigger,” he said.
OV has had a tough schedule, with more challenges ahead. But Keith believes his team will only continue to improve.
“We’ve been very, very competitive, and I think we’re going to be competitive. I think we know we’ve got a couple plays each game that if we make it will push us over (the top),” he said. “And I think the kids are getting hungrier and hungrier for that.”