Eagle girls’ hoop tops Lamoille, books their trip to Barre

MIDDLEBURY — Seniors Emma Carter and Emma LaRose made the Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team in November 2014.
Seniors Emma Radler and Abby Mansfield and junior Jalen Cook came aboard a year later, and senior Vanessa Dykstra joined in the 2016 preseason.
Those six were the first six Eagles to enter Saturday’s Division II quarterfinal, in which No. 2 Mount Abe turned back an early challenge from No. 10 Lamoille in a 51-32 victory.
As well as all having played together on the Eagle varsity for those years and for youth teams for many earlier seasons, those six Eagles and their seven teammates have something else in common: None have ever played in a D-II tournament game in the Barre Auditorium.
That will change on Wednesday at 8:15 p.m., when the Eagles will tip off against No. 3 U-32 (19-3), with a date in Saturday’s 3:45 p.m. final in Barre at stake.
Carter, who led the 18-4 Eagles with 22 points and nine rebounds on Saturday, said Barre was on the Eagles’ minds when the 10-12 Lancers took a 19-16 lead late in the second quarter.
“This is an emotional game, obviously. As a team we’ve never been to Barre,” Carter said. “So I think everybody kicked it into high gear and was like, let’s get it done. Let’s show them what Mount Abe is made of.”
At 5:05 of the fourth quarter a Carter drive made it 49-29 Eagles and capped a 33-10 surge built on defense (Mansfield led the way with eight steals and chipped in six assists and five boards), rebounding and scoring, much of from Carter and Radler (13 points, six rebounds).
Afterward the Eagles talked about Barre.
“Emma LaRose and I have been playing together since third or fourth grade,” Carter said. “And so I went up and gave her a big hug after the buzzer went off, because I was like, let’s do it. Because we watched Ashlie Fay, Megan Livingston and all of them when we were growing up get to Barre and win state championships. So having it all come together today was pretty sweet.”
Coach Connie LaRose’s teams won back-to-back titles just before Carter and Emma LaRose became varsity players. Now, Coach LaRose said, maybe it’s this group’s turn to make history.
“The kids are excited. It’s been four years. None of these kids have every played there. I’m excited for them,” LaRose said. “These eight seniors, they’ve been at this for a long time. This is the first hurdle, that we get out of the quarters for the first time in three years, and it gives them a chance to see what they can do.”
The Lancers were a hurdle. Led by sparkplug point guard Emily Peck (10 points, plus several alert assists and steals), Lamoille had little trouble breaking the Eagles’ press early on and contested Eagle shots.
Despite Radler’s six first-quarter points inside, the teams were tied after one period, 11-11, as Peck scored five and the Lancers harassed the Eagles into seven turnovers.
Mansfield gave the Eagles a lift early in the second, with three points and an assist to junior Molly Murray as the Eagles took a 16-11 lead.
But Lamoille answered with an 8-0 run with four players scoring. Two Isabelle Sullivan free throws made it 19-16 at 2:28.
Mansfield then ripped the ball away from a Lancer and sank a jumper at the other end at 1:50 to break a four-minute Eagle drought.
That triggered an 11-2 Eagle run. Carter hit a layup on a feed from junior center Cora Funke and canned two free throws, Dykstra sank two from the line, and after a Cook steal Funke put back in her own miss while being fouled and nailed the free throw to make it 27-21 at the half. Lamoille turned the ball over seven times in the quarter as the Eagle defense asserted itself.
In the third quarter the Eagles outrebounded the Lancers, 10-6, and outscored them, 16-8, as Carter and Radler combined for 14 points. Dykstra hit on the break from Mansfield for the other hoop, and Mansfield set up Carter’s hoop that closed the quarter and made it 43-29. The Eagles then opened the fourth period with a Radler jumper, two Carter free throws and the Carter drive that built the lead to 20.
To get to Saturday’s quarterfinal the Eagles this past Wednesday defeated No. 15 Otter Valley, 65-41, in first round of the playoffs. Carter (24 points, eight rebounds, five steals), Radler (15 points), and Mansfield (six points, eight rebounds and five steals) led the way. Gabby Poalino scored 17 for OV (4-17).
Carter said the Eagles refocusing on defense and rebounding made the difference on Saturday — that, and the seniors’ desire to win their last home game and then play together in Barre.
“I was definitely thinking about that. We’re not going to play in front of a crowd like this again until we get to Barre,” she said. “So I think definitely wanting to continue this season is a big part of us wanting to be successful.”
Coach LaRose noted the last time the Eagles faced the U-32 Raiders, with whom they split two games this year, they fell behind big early before making a run of it. (The Eagles won at No. 1 seed Fair Haven, 33-29, early this winter.)
Vs. the Raiders this time around they probably cannot afford lapses, she said.
“It will be a battle,” LaRose said. “I feel confident we can do it. We have to play well for 32 minutes.”  
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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