Eagle girls’ basketball romps past Cougars; Mt. Abe eyes playoffs

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball celebrated its Senior Day in style on Saturday, thumping visiting Mount Mansfield by the misleading final of 78-39.
When is a 39-point margin misleading?
When the Eagle starters in the game in the first and third quarters Mount Abe outscore the 7-11 Cougars by 52-12 and force 21 turnovers with relentless defensive pressure, both full-court and half-court. And in each of those quarters all five Eagle starters record points.
The win, Mount Abe’s seventh straight and 10th in 11 outings, pushed the Eagles to 14-4, good for a second-place tie in the Division II point standings with U-32 (15-3), just behind Fair Haven (15-3). The Eagles split two games with U-32 earlier this season, and they won at Fair Haven.
More importantly, the Eagles are playing their best basketball before the playoffs open next week and wrap up with two winnable road games this week.
The first time they faced the Cougars the Eagles won by 14. And on Saturday they got offense from all the starters, a recent trend.
Senior forward Emma Carter led, as usual, with 26 points, but the ball moved well as senior forward Emma Radler (10 points, seven rebounds), junior forward Jalen Cook (eight points, five assists, four steals), senior guard Abby Mansfield (eight points, four steals), and senior point guard Emma LaRose (six points, five assists, four steals) all made their presence felt.
LaRose, a tri-captain with Mansfield and Carter, said the Eagles improved patience and ball movement is challenging their opponents, while creating more space for their own scorers. 
“It’s important for us to relieve pressure, mainly Carter and Jalen,” LaRose said. “It forces the teams we’re playing against to play us more evenly, so we’re not relying on them. We all have the ability to run the plays and score.”
Thanks to their quick feet and hands, the Eagles didn’t always have to run their offense. They took a 30-8 first-period lead while scoring 14 transition points by forcing 11 Cougar turnovers with their 1-2-2 press.
“We’ve been working on it a lot and figuring out the spacing and who’s covering what. But definitely when we get that right amount of energy it just clicks so perfectly and just sets the tone for everything we do,” LaRose said.
Coach Connie LaRose, also known as Emma LaRose’s grandmother, said she has seen the Eagles come together in the past couple weeks.
“That’s what’s been happening the last three, four games. We’re getting that balance. We’re making that extra pass. We’re playing mostly really solid defense. We’re working overtime in every practice on that press, and it’s kind of dictating a lot of what’s going on, and a lot of the energy,” Coach LaRose said. “I talk to them every day about no fear, but don’t be reckless. Balance that out, and we can make some good things happen.”
On Saturday the game was over as the Eagles took a 27-4 lead in the first six minutes. MMU’s Jillian Laughlin had scored four of her team-high 18 to that point, but the Eagles had already called off their press after a LaRose three-pointer made it 22-4.
Carter scored 14 in the period, including back-to-back three-pointers in the late going; Mansfield added three hoops, including consecutive layups after steals, one by her and one by LaRose; Radler chipped in a free throw and a putback; and Cook scored four as she and Carter combined to give the Eagles an 8-1 lead in the first 1:16.
The Eagle bench played the Cougars to a standoff in the second and fourth periods. Eagle junior center Cora Funke (15 points) showed touch in the lane, and seniors Vanessa Dykstra and Bridget Davis chipping in three and two assists, respectively.
Looking ahead, Emma LaRose said she is confident in the Eagles as long as they “do all the right things” and “work as hard as we worked today.” And she said they have a not-so-secret weapon, one that Athletic Director Devin Wendel noted while honoring the team’s eight seniors (Ally Hoff and Jasmin Gil are the others) — chemistry.
“That’s one of the most crucial points of our team. We’ve all known each other since third grade,” LaRose said. “It’s really special, what all of our friendship is and what it brings to our team.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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