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OV girls’ basketball comes up just short in opener

 
BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School girls’ basketball team on Monday shrugged off an early 12-0 deficit to tie visiting West Rutland at 26-all in the third quarter, but ultimately the Golden Horde made the plays on defense and hit just enough free throws to edge the Otters, 36-32, in OV’s opener. 
Westside improved to 1-1 after a four-point loss at Bellows Falls in the team’s opener. Coach Carl Serrani was pleased to see his team cut his turnovers by more than half from the opener to just 15 on Monday, and to see his team dig in on defense when it counted. The Golden Horde held the Otters to 11 points in the second half 
“We go 10 deep, and I can play any one of them,” Serrani said. “We’re going to wear teams out, hopefully.”
OV Coach Kelly Trayah called time three minutes into the game with his team down by 8-0 and switched to a 2-1-2 zone, and that move changed the tenor of the game. 
Out of the timeout two free throws by Westside junior Jenee McGee (who scored a game-high eight points) and a post move by sophomore center Elizabeth Bailey (seven points) pushed the lead to 12-0 at 2:20, but the Horde had been slowed.
Before the end of the quarter OV broke the ice with a free throw from junior center Livia Bernhardt and an acrobatic hoop in the paint from freshman Alice Keith, and it was 12-3. 
Keith and junior Mary Kingsley continued to give the Otters a lift off the bench in the second quarter, during which OV outscored Westside by 18-10 to pull within 22-21 at the break. Kingsley hit a jumper and a three-pointer for the Otters first five points of the quarter and Keith chipped in a jumper and a free throw. Sophomore starter Mallory Lufkin also returned to the lineup and chipped in with a bucket in the paint and a jumper.
In the first period the Otters had tried too often to drive into the Westside zone and the bigger Horde post players, and in the second they took Trayah’s advice and worked the ball for those open jumpers. 
“We can’t just pound it inside, because people will stay inside that little zone. We need to be able to shoot from outside,” Trayah said. 
Still, the Golden Horde went on a 5-1 run to lead by 22-13 at 2:21. Sophomore Kiana Grabowski came off the bench to nail a three, freshman forward Isabell Lanfear converted an offensive board, and Bailey hit a free throw. In the span only a Keith free throw answering for OV. 
But the Otters scored eight points in the final two minutes to close the gap. Lufkin hit her jumper, Bernhardt sank the first of two free throws, and junior Alia Edmunds rebounded the missed second attempt and set up junior guard Julia Eastman for a three-pointer. Eastman then capped the run by stealing the ball, getting fouled and hitting two free throws.
Points came harder for both teams in the second half. In the third period OV junior forward Leah Pinkowski hit a free throw at 5:56 to tie the game at 22-22, but Westside senior Kasey Serrani’s short jumper made it 24-22. Pinkowski hit the offensive glass to tie the game again at 4:50, but a Serrani putback 10 seconds later made it 26-24. Finally, Bernhardt grabbed two straight offensive boards, was fouled, and hit two free throws at 3:23 to knot the score at 26-26.
As the quarter closed the Golden Horde got a jumper from junior guard Kiera Pipeling and a post move from Lanfear, and they had the lead for good at 30-26. 
Bernhardt hit in the post to make it 30-28 two minutes into the fourth, and then neither team scored for almost four minutes. Finally Horde guard Samantha Callahan laid in an offensive rebound at 2:12 to make it 32-28, and Westside hit four of eight from the line in the final 1:37, including two from Pipeling at 1:37, to nail down the win. 
In the waning minutes the Otters got two free throws from Edmunds and a fast-break hoop from Lufkin set up by Edmunds, but Trayah said they simply missed too many shots and committed too many turnovers in the period after putting together two good quarters. 
“We’ve got to make those easy baskets, those easy putbacks, those easy layups have to go in. We missed way to many of those,” Trayah said.
Bailey (nine rebounds) and McGee (eight) led a balanced Westside effort on the glass; the Horde earned a 48-45 edge on the boards as there were plenty of rebounds available. 
Serrani said he was pleased with his team’s effort, although he said the Golden Horde will work on patience and shot selection against the zone, with an emphasis on the getting the ball inside to Bailey and Lanfear. 
“We’ve got plenty of upside,” Serrani said. “I’m happy, I really am.”
GUARD JULIA EASTMAN slows the Golden Horde’s advance up court during Monday’s game in Brandon. The OV junior tallied five points and seven rebounds.
Independent photo/Angelo Lynn
Bernhardt and Lufkin led OV with six points each, and Kingsley, Keith and Eastman added five apiece. Bernhardt (15 rebounds), Edmunds (10) and Eastman (seven) sparked OV on the boards.
Trayah remains optimistic about a team that played well defensively and showed the potential to be a solid offensive outfit. 
“We lost some legs at the end. I noticed a lot of shots were just short. We’re going to have to do a little more conditioning, I think,” he said. “But I think we’re going to be OK.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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