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Mount Abe boys’ hoop shows no fear as Ghosts visit

BRISTOL — The host Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ basketball on Monday evening bounced back from a tough loss two days before to start fast against Randolph, and that proved to be enough to carry the Eagles past the Galloping Ghosts, 65-57.
In a loss at Otter Valley on Saturday the Eagles scored just two points in the final 10 minutes, but at home on Monday they used fierce full-court pressure to rack up 14 fast-break points in the first quarter alone on the way to a 23-12 lead.
After the opening quarter the Ghosts, who had defeated the Eagles at home, 63-51, on Dec. 27, made runs at Mount Abe. They cut the Eagles’ lead to five points in the second quarter, seven in the third and eight in the fourth.
EAGLE JUNIOR EBEN Clifford moves past Randolph’s Liam Connolly during Mount Abe’s winning effort in Bristol Monday evening.
Independent photo/Steve James
But Randolph never caught them after the Eagles snapped a 5-5 tie in the first quarter with a 10-0 run. That run consisted of a Shain Sargent three-pointer assisted by Logan Willey, a Liam Kelliher transition hoop set up by Parker Hines after a Willey steal, a Kelliher three-pointer, and a Willey fast-break layup after another of of his half-dozen steals. Kelliher and Sargent each scored nine of their 16 points in the first quarter.
Coach Martin Clark said that surge allowed the Eagles to play more relaxed after Saturday’s disappointment. 
“It was really important for us to get out to that 10-point lead early and take some pressure off the boys making some shots after that last game, when we failed to score easily in the second half,” Clark said. “I’m really happy with their effort.”
When the Ghosts did fight back the rest of the way, the Eagles answered, with Hines often making key plays — he finished with a game-high 18 points.
 Hines said a result that moved the Eagles to 5-4 meant a lot to the team.
 “It was huge. It’s the mentality of winning. Everybody’s got to do their part,” Hines said. “And a win like that just creates the team morale that keeps us going, keeps us looking forward to the next game. Hopefully we can pull out the next one with the energy and momentum we gained from this one and just keep playing good basketball.”
In part because both teams pressed fullcourt most of the game and played aggressive man-to-man defense, the game was played at a fast pace and at times was rough around the edges — both teams committed more than two-dozen turnovers.
SENIOR FORWARD PARKER Hines dribbles up court a step ahead of Randolph’s Zach Whitmore during Mount Abraham’s home win in Bristol on Monday.
Independent photo/Steve James
As happy as Clark was with their effort he would like the Eagles to be a little more careful with the ball, even if he said a few turnovers are to be expected if the Eagles play as fast as he would like to take advantage of their speed and athleticism.
“We have to understand we have to take care of the basketball every possession and not make a flashy play every time,” Clark said.
The better news was that the Eagles held their own on the boards against the bigger Ghosts after being outrebounded by what Clark said was a two-to-one margin the first time. Counting team rebounds, Randolph earned a 37-32 edge on Monday. Logan Rodriguez led the Eagles with nine, Sargent had seven, and Willey grabbed five. Hines, who finished with four, agreed better rebounding was vital on Monday.
“Everybody was working hard as a team. It was a team effort. Everybody was boxing out. It definitely showed in the outcome,” Hines said.
In the second quarter Ghost forward Logan Wright heated up, with six of his 16 points in the first three minutes as Randolph pulled to within 27-22.
But Hines answered with 11 of his points — six points in the paint, two free throws and a trey — as the Eagles ended up extending their lead to 15 at the half, 41-26.
The Ghosts opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run that included four more points in the lane from Wright, and Clark called for time at 4:01. The rest of the quarter evened out, and the Eagles emerged with a 50-42 advantage. Hines again was a factor, with four points and an assist to Sargent, while Kelliher converted a Willey feed and hit a late free throw. Ghost forward Zach Whitmore scored six of his 12 in the period.
The Eagles did enough to maintain the lead in the fourth, although a Whitmore three and a putback by guard James Grandy (11 points) brought the Ghosts to within seven (54-47) at 4:50. Kelliher answered with two free throws, however, and the lead never dipped below eight again.
Rodriguez scored five of his nine in the quarter and Kelliher added four points, two coming on a fast-break hoop on a Hines assist that made it 61-51 with 2:37 to go. Two Sargent free throws a minute later clinched a win that Clark hopes will give his team a lift.
“It’s a huge boost, and I hope it will be the momentum boost they’ll need, because we’re getting into the tough part of our schedule, and we’re going to need to play well all game long,” Clark said. “It was a big win for us as far as turning it around and not going backwards. We’ve been here three years in a row with around the same record and gone backwards from here on out. So we’re looking to go forward.”
Hines is optimistic more positive results could be on the way.
“I got pulled up as a sophomore, and we’ve never had this much success as a team. We’ve never had as good of a bond as a team, either,” he said. “The chemistry is there. We’ve just got to keep working.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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