Tiger boys’ basketball blows past the T-birds for an 87-40 victory

MIDDLEBURY — After a couple of tough losses and a schedule that started with just two of seven games at home, the Middlebury Union High School boys’ basketball team broke out on Saturday when winless Missisquoi Valley Union High School showed up.
The 0-7 T-Birds, who start two freshmen and two sophomores, hit nine three pointers in all to hang with 2-7 MUHS for two-plus quarters.
But the Tigers, leading by 41-30 two minutes into the third quarter, then dropped a 26-3 run on MVU. They dominated the boards (a 29-13 edge in the second half), ran at will, attacked the basket, and finally closed out the game by raining three-pointers (reserves Spencer Cadoret and Tre Bonavita combined for five in the final 4:45) in an 87-40 victory.
The Tigers were coming off a three-point loss at Spaulding in their previous outing, and before that Division II title contender Fair Haven had thumped them in their own gym.
MUHS Coach Kyle Lussier said this past Saturday’s game, in which seven Tigers scored at least nine points (led by senior center Bastiaan Phair with 16 and Cadoret, a junior swingman, with 15), would give his team a shot in the arm.
“Any win’s a lift right now. Our last one was close at Spaulding, which we couldn’t quite pull out, and we had a really tough one with Fair Haven,” Lussier said. “It was a rough two-game stretch, so any win was going to be something to hold onto.”
Especially, he said, the Tigers should realize what they can do offensively as they head into a stretch of three more home games in the next week-and-a-half: Mount Abraham is in town Wednesday, a tough matchup with undefeated D-I champion Rutland is on tap on Saturday, and Vergennes visits next Tuesday.
“This is the first game that we saw that we were playing relaxed out there,” Lussier said. “We’ve got scorers out there. We’ve got guys who can shoot the ball and guys who can take it to the rim.”
The effort on the boards, especially after an even first half rebounding, bodes well, he said, especially because it can help trigger the Tiger offense.
“People weren’t afraid to be physical to get rebounds,” Lussier said. “We were able to come into it and go attack the rebounds a little better. And I think they saw that once they went in and attacked the rebounds we could fast break out of it.”
In the first period, four Tigers scored as they took an 8-0 lead. But the T-Birds hit three three-pointers, two by Sean Power and one by Ethan Creller (seven points) in an 11-2 run to take their only lead, 11-10 at 1:50. MUHS senior guard JD Goettelmann (10 points for the evening) then sparked a 10-0 run with two transition hoops, and the Tigers led after one period, 20-11.
The Tigers opened the second quarter with a 9-0 surge in which senior guard Cody Pomainville (nine points) twice scored inside, once converting a three-point play on feed from junior guard Parker Beatty after Beatty, who led the Tigers with eight rebounds, snagged an offensive board.
Thunderbird sophomore guard Colby Theberge hit three three-pointers to keep MVU within striking range at 34-22 (Theberge sank five in all for a team-high 15 points). But the Tigers closed the quarter with a free throw from junior guard Zach Dunn and two hoops inside from Phair, one set up by sophomore guard Tyler Buxton, and MUHS led by 39-22 at the half.
The T-Birds kept firing away from long range to open the second half. Threes from Creller and Theberge helped set the score at 41-30 with two minutes gone.
Then the Tigers put the hammer down, outscoring MVU by 12-1 over the rest of the period. A Phair putback started the damage, and Buxton (10 points, seven rebounds, and strong individual defense) scored twice in transition, with assists from Goettelmann and Phair, respectively. After an MVU free throw, Goettelmann hit two from the line after being fouled on the break, and Phair closed the period by hitting inside to make it 53-31.
The Tigers’ 34-point outburst in the fourth quarter was highlighted by the marksmanship of Cadoret, who added five rebounds, and Bonavita, a senior who finished with eight points.
Overall Pomainville and Goettelmann chipped in three assists apiece, Beatty added six points to his team-high rebounding total, and Dunn finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
The Tigers were playing without two frontcourt rotation players, senior Skyeler Devlin and sophomore Camden Devlin. Lussier said he was glad everybody else played and fared well.
“We have a bunch of guys who can play on our team right now,” he said. “It was nice to see we could get everyone in there because it is a struggle at times. We’ve been trying to figure out rotations and getting guys in.”
Lussier said he would like to see more rebounding like Saturday’s to help the Tigers create more transition offense. Better work in their man-to-man defense could also trigger more transition offense, he added. He said the Tigers still have to do more to stop initial dribble penetration and fight through on-ball screens.
“We’ve got to do a better job defensively playing together and guarding the ball,” Lussier said. “We’re relying too much on our help defensively to come help stop the ball, and that’s where everything starts to break down. That’s one of the biggest things we’ve seen so far, is people having to keep recovering from help to close out people shooting three-point shots.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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