Boys’ hoop: Late run pushes Tigers past Commodores

VERGENNES — When teams not enjoying the best of winters square off late in the season, games take on extra meaning — they become chances for precious wins.
If the game is a county rivalry, such as the Middlebury Union High School boys’ basketball team’s visit to Vergennes on Tuesday, the stakes get even higher.
And Tuesday’s contest didn’t disappoint for entertainment value, as the Tigers fought off the Commodores’ second-half rally to win, 62-57, in the process erasing a 56-54 VUHS lead with 4:16 to go with a game-closing 8-1 run.
Junior guard Cody Pomainville helped account for all eight of those points. He drove to tie the game at 3:50, and after neither team could score for almost three minutes drove again, lost the handle, regained control, and dished to senior guard Pierson Beatty for the go-ahead lay-up at 1:15. That play came after Pomainville stole the ball at the other end.
Pomainville — who finished tied with Commodore senior guard Adam Gill for game honors with 25 points — then sank four straight free throws in the final 33 seconds to ice a win that improved MUHS to 3-11. Both of those trips to the line came after Tiger junior guard Andre Trudeau rebounded Commodore misses.
Pomainville said the local rivalry games always mean a little more.  
“It’s really nice because we know a lot of these kids, and everyone in the stands knows us,” Pomainville said. “Getting the win is just awesome.”
The victory was the Tigers’ third in four games after an 0-10 start, and their only loss in that stretch was by three points to 11-4 Missisquoi.
“We’ve been playing more as a team,” Pomainville said. “We’re just starting to click now.”
Many Tigers helped the cause. Senior forward Trey Kaufmann scored 17, blocked a couple shots, and was the major factor as the Tigers outrebounded VUHS, 40-29, including team rebounds, and scored nine points directly from offensive boards.
Beatty scored 12, and junior forward Skyeler Devlin contributed a useful stint off the bench, scoring four points, rebounding and defending well, and chipping in clever assists to Kaufmann, Beatty and junior guard J.D. Goettelmann for easy layups.
“That’s a big key,” said MUHS Coach Kyle Lussier. “We’ve had a lot of people be contributors during different parts of the game.”
While the fact that the Tigers are past a brutal first-half schedule vs. Division I powerhouses helps, Lussier also credited better ball movement for the Tigers’ improved results.
“We’ve done a good job of getting guys touches where they can score, getting shots in continuity,” Lussier said. “There are not as many guys looking to create their own shots any more. We’ve got guys playing together a little bit.”   
Meanwhile, frustration continued for Coach Peter Quinn’s Commodores, who fell behind by 33-22 in the second quarter before cutting the Tiger lead to 35-30 at the break thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Gill and senior Dylan Bradford and a jumper at the buzzer by junior forward Lance Bergmans. They also saw the Tigers get six straight points from Pomainville late in the third period to make it 48-41, but again rallied.
Ultimately, though, Quinn said the Commodores made too many mistakes — he cited taking ill-advised shots and failing to box out on the boards as the biggest problems — to sustain their comeback.
“We try hard,” Quinn said. “Games are always a combination of those things, doing the right thing and making mistakes. Winning, as I’m painfully learning this year, is doing those right things often enough. And taking nothing away from Middlebury’s game, they made more plays than we did in the end, but it’s certainly true that if they make those same plays and we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot we come out with a win.”
VUHS could also have taken better advantage of the Tigers’ foul trouble. MUHS picked up its seventh foul of the second half with 3:29 to go in the third quarter, and the Commodores shot 15 free throws between then and 4:16 in the fourth, when two Gill makes from the line gave them their 56-54 lead. But they also missed five of them, leaving the door open for the Tigers’ late surge.
Junior forward Casey Kimball scored 10 for VUHS, Bradford chipped in seven points, and Bergmans and senior guard Hunter O’Connor added five points each for the Commodores, who will play another rivalry game at Mount Abraham on Friday.
Quinn said even after Tuesday’s tough loss the Commodores are maintaining a good attitude they will carry into Bristol.
“They pick each other up, and they’ve got a lot of spirit,” he said. “In fact for a team that has won as few games as we have, I think they have remarkable spirit.”
Meanwhile, Pomainville said the Tigers are growing increasingly confident.
“I think we’ve got it,” he said. “We’ve got a couple games coming up that we can definitely take control of. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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