Commodore girls’ basketball cruises past Tigers

VERGENNES — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ basketball team hung with host Vergennes for a quarter and a half on Tuesday, but the Commodores used their size and experience to steadily pull away for a 47-19 victory.
Tiger freshman Ivy Doran scored five unanswered points early in the second quarter, a stretch in which the MUHS pressure defense also was frustrating the Commodores, who turned the ball over 14 times in the first half.
Those points pulled MUHS to within 13-9 at 5:00, and gave the Tigers — who have five freshmen sharing regular minutes with four seniors and three juniors — some hope they could pull out their first victory.
MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School center Samantha Paige holds on to a loose ball during the Tigers’ loss to Vergennes on Tuesday.
Independent photo/Steve James
But the Commodores, who have now won three of four to improve to 3-3, had other ideas, although it still took them a while to get into synch. They ramped up the defensive intensity and shut the Tigers out over the final five minutes of the half and gradually asserted themselves on offense.
First, they took advantage of Tiger foul trouble, and Commodore sophomore forward Kate Gosliga and junior guard Emily Rooney each hit three free throws over the next 2:15.
Then the Commodores remembered they had four players on their roster (Gosliga, seniors Brianna Vander Wey and Emma Bryant, and junior Sophie Hatch) who offer more size than the Tigers strongest post player, senior Ashley Sunderland, who was already saddled with three fouls.
COMMODORE CIARA MCCLAY makes a cross over move but Tiger Hannah Turner keeps her eyes on the ball.
Independent photo/Steve James
In the final two minutes of the half the Commodores converted three times in the post: Senior Emily Gosliga fed her sister Kate, senior point guard Ciara McClay set up Vander Wey, and then the Gosligas teamed up again on an inbounds play to beat the halftime horn, with Kate Gosliga’s layup making it 25-9 at the break.
The Commodores were well on the way to the win. Coach Billy Waller credited the Tigers for their effort, and the Commodores for righting the ship.
“We eventually got the ball inside enough times and the girls made enough plays so we ended up with a pretty comfortable lead. I thought Middlebury did a good job of trying to be scrappy and make it a little bit difficult,” Waller said. “But eventually I thought Bri and Kate and Emma and Sophie worked in the post a little bit, and things looked a little better.”
TIGER JUNIOR RILEY O’Neil marks Vergennes freshman Felicia Poirier as she dribbles down the court during the Commodores’ win over rivals Middlebury on Tuesday.
Independent photo/Steve James
Tiger Coach Jen Heath said she was happy with her team’s effort, but said there was only so much they could do when the Commodores started to play to their strengths.
“In the first half our press was kind of forcing them to take some quick shots, so they couldn’t set up and then pass them in. Once they started breaking that a little more they were able to get it into their posts and take advantage of that size,” she said. “We came out really strong. Our foul trouble hurt us a little and our inexperience. And their size. We have three freshmen on the court at a time playing against juniors and seniors, and they’re bigger than all of us.”
The Commodores missed a few shots early in the third, but were more settled and committed only four second-half turnovers. They remained committed to working the ball inside, and all four post players made strong moves, most of them assisted. VUHS finished with 10 assists on 17 baskets, with McClay and Emily Gosliga leading the way with three apiece and Bryant adding two.
AS THE VERGENNES team transitions onto offense, freshman Felicia Poirier leads a Commodore rush down the court in Tuesday’s win over Middlebury.
Independent photo/Steve James
Vander Wey did the most damage overall, racking up 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Kate Gosliga finished with 10 points and five boards; Bryant, with three points and seven rebounds; Hatch, with four points and six boards; and senior guard Morgan Lynk and McClay added four points apiece in a balanced scoring effort.
Waller said that balance is a product of the platoon system he employs because he believes he has 11 talented players on the team. Every few minutes five players enter as a unit, giving the Commodores fresh legs. Waller said he believes the team has bought into the approach and it should give them an advantage, especially as the season wears on.
“Our top seven might not be as good as some teams, but our top 10 is better than other teams’ top 10,” Waller said.
VUHS finished with 26 points in the paint and outrebounded the Tigers, 55-33, including team rebounds. Seven Commodores had at least four rebounds.
VUHS SENIOR GUARD Ciara McClay breaks between Middlebury’s Carly Larocque, left, and Taylor Sylvester during Tuesday’s tilt in the Little City.
Independent photo/Steve James
“We spent an hour at practice yesterday just on rebounding, and it showed a little bit today,” Waller said. “I thought the girls got in the right position to get the rebounds.”
For the Tigers Doran finished with eight points, and senior guard Taylor Sylvester and freshman forward/guard Hannah Turner chipped in four points apiece. Turner hauled in nine rebounds, quick junior guard Riley O’Neil grabbed five, and Sylvester nabbed three. Freshman Viviana Hammond and O’Neil picked up assists.
Heath said despite the Tigers’ lack of wins they are maintaining a positive frame of mind and are putting in the effort needed to improve.
“This is how they’ve played every game. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to go out and we’re going to work hard,” she said. “We’re figuring out what we need to do and enjoying playing together.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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