Tiger boys’ hoop team fends off Mount Abe

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys basketball team twice rallied to take late one-point leads on Friday, but visiting Middlebury answered with a decisive 5-0 run with a minute to go on the way to a 46-44 victory.
The Eagles twice fought back from behind in the second half. In the third period five straight points from Tiger center Skyeler Devlin, including a three-point play set up by Parker Beatty, gave MUHS a 31-24 lead with 2:37 on the clock.
Mount Abe responded with a 7-0 run that began when Logan Willey took the ball to the hoop for two at 1:30. In the final minute Jackson Counter (who poured in a game-high 25) sank one of his five three-pointers before closing the quarter by putting in an Eagle miss.
The Tigers counterpunched to open the fourth, when three-pointers from Spencer Cadoret and JD Goettelmann gave them a 37-31 lead with 5:45 to go.
The Eagles answered, again with help from Counter. He swished a three and then assisted a Dustin Whitcomb baseline jumper that pulled Mount Abe within a point, and they took their first lead of the game at 3:50 when Ryan Bonar scored inside on a feed from Logan Rodriguez to make it 38-37.
The teams then traded buckets. Beatty scored on the break immediately after Bonar’s hoop, and Whitcomb hit a jumper in the lane at the other end at 3:20 to make it 40-39, with a feed from Bonar after he grabbed an offensive board.
But that would be Mount Abe’s last lead. Beatty, who scored six points and led the Tigers on the boards, went coast-to-coast again at 2:29 to make it 41-40.
Tiger guard Cody Pomainville scored the next three points, a free throw at 1:36 and a strong move to the basket with a minute left.
Whitcomb (eight points) also drove hard to the hoop to make it 44-42 at 0:50, and the Eagles had a chance to tie after the Tigers missed two free throws.
Rodriguez drove for a good look, but his shot rolled off the rim and Devlin rebounded. MUHS worked the ball to sophomore Tyler Buxton, and the Eagles fouled him. Buxton had hit just two of four free throws, including an air ball, earlier in the game. But this time Buxton nailed both with 7.5 seconds to go to make it 46-42 and make a late Rodriguez hoop moot.
The game was hard-fought, if ragged at times, throughout. The teams combined for 10 turnovers and 11 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Tigers on top, 7-4.
Counter hit three three-pointers in the second quarter to spark the Eagles. But Goettelmann (11 points), Pomainville (eight points) and Tre Bonavita hit from behind the arc, and seven Tigers scored in the period as the lids came off the baskets and the teams took better care of the ball. MUHS kept its three-point lead at the break, 22-19.
Devlin then came alive in the third, scoring eight of his 11 points as the Tigers took their 31-24 lead, the game’s largest, just before the Eagles started staging rallies.
The result was rewarding for the Tigers, who recently have lost three games in the final seconds.
“It’s a good win. We’ve had some difficult situations in last-minute situations,” said Coach Kyle Lussier. “It was good for morale.”
Lussier was happy with his team’s defense, although he agreed both teams normally might have made a few more shots.
“For the most part we did a pretty good job of making it hard for them to get shots off,” he said. “We had a lot of good looks we didn’t capitalize on as well.”
Eagle coach Martin Clark was happy with the Eagles’ effort, if not the offensive output, something for which he also credited the Tigers.
 “We did a decent job defensively. And the big push tonight was to get rebounds, and I think we did a good job rebounding,” Clark said. “We just fell short in the shooting area.”
He expects the same kind of hard work moving forward — and with any luck a return to his team’s usual offensive balance.
“They just keep fighting,” Clark said. “They don’t have any quit in them.”

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