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Eagle girls turn back Randolph: Mt. Abe to face Slaters in D-II playoffs

BRISTOL — The No. 6 Mount Abraham Union High girls’ basketball team took charge of Tuesday’s first-round Division II playoff game in the first half and then held off No. 11 Randolph’s fourth-quarter rally for a 53-42 victory.
The Eagles received 30 points and strong work on the boards from junior forward Emma Carter in improving to 13-8 vs. the 10-11 Ghosts.
Mount Abe will travel to meet No. 3 Fair Haven in a Friday quarterfinal at 7 p.m. The 16-5 Slaters are the defending champs and defeated the Eagles by 37-23 back in December.
But Carter said the Eagles will be confident moving forward.
“We’ve just got to play defense like we did tonight and rebound like we did tonight and bring the energy,” she said.
Coach Connie LaRose said it will be important on Friday for the Eagles to move the ball well and show poise on offense the way they did when they took their 30-20 halftime lead on Tuesday. Carter (13 points in the first half), sophomore Jalen Cook (nine) and junior Emma Radler (six of her eight overall points) benefitted most from Mount Abe’s offensive efficiency before the break.
“I felt like the first half we accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” LaRose said. “We were getting some good quality looks. We were getting our cutters through … Not everything was dropping, but they were getting good looks.”
The Eagles took the lead for good by closing the first period with an 8-4 run over the final 2:40. Carter sank a tie-breaking three, one of her five from behind the arc, and converted an offensive board; Cook scored in the lane on one of junior Emma LaRose’s seven assists; and Radler scored on the break, from LaRose again, to cap the surge and make it 14-10.
In the second period Carter, Cook and Radler teamed up for all 16 of Mount Abe’s points, and two late Radler hoops, both assisted by Carter, created the Eagles’ 10-point halftime lead. At the other end, eight Ghosts scored, with Shea Rodham’s five and Sara Rea’s four leading the way.
In the third period Randolph switched from man defense to a 2-3 zone and the Eagles simply didn’t adjust well, turning the ball over in the period as many times (four) as they had in the first half and scoring only seven points, all by Carter.
“Our patience, or lack thereof, I think that’s something that has hurt us all season,” LaRose said. “And we had better patience in the first half, and then we went away from that.”
Fortunately, the Eagles also held the Ghosts to nine in the period, and the lead was eight after three, 37-29.
“Our team showed up to play defense tonight. That was important,” Carter said. “Everybody was just helping each other out. Overall there was just good chemistry and energy on the floor.”
Late in the period the Eagles also pulled the ball out and forced the Ghosts to abandon the zone. And even though the Ghosts scored the first three points of the fourth quarter to pull within 37-32, the Eagles began to get back on track.
Specifically, Carter did. She drove for two at 6:45, hit a three (from LaRose), and then added two free throws at 5:46. Carter also grabbed several defensive rebounds and blocked two shots in that stretch as Mount Abe pushed the lead to 44-32.
The Ghosts made one more run, with Emily Grady (10 points) converting a three-point play and Rielle Brassard and Rea (six points apiece) hitting free throws during a six-point surge that cut the lead to 44-38 at 3:49.
But Radler hit a big putback on the next Eagle possession, and LaRose, junior guards Abby Mansfield and Vanessa Dykstra (who combined to force nine Ghost turnovers), and Carter iced the win from the free-throw line.
As well as the Eagles closed the game out in the final 3:30, Coach LaRose said her team will need to remember how they played with composure in Tuesday’s first half if they are to defeat the Slaters and advance to a Monday semifinal in Barre.
“Thirty-two minutes, or it’s not going to happen. I think we can play with them. We’ve played with almost everybody we’ve had a game with this year,” LaRose said. “Eight losses, and in every one of those games I believe we were ahead at some point in the game.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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