Falcons frustrate Tiger boys in hoop playoffs
MIDDLEBURY — The best Middlebury Union High School boys’ basketball season since 2015 came to an end on Wednesday, when No. 13 North Country upset the No. 4 Tigers, 61-50, in a first-round Division I playoff game.
The Tigers finished at 16-5, the same record as the 2015 team, which also fell in a first-round upset. Those 16 wins this year came just one short of the combined win total of the program’s past three seasons.
Despite the sting of a loss in a game the Tigers did not play their best, first-year Coach John Howe said what they accomplished this season by playing hard and sharing the ball should not be forgotten.
MIDDLEBURY’S TIMOTHY GOETTELMANN faces a tight North Country defense in the Tigers’ home loss on Wednesday. Below, Tiger junior Tyler Buxton goes up strong to the hoop. Visiting North Country upset the No. 4 Tigers, who finished 16-5, despite Buxton’s 17 points.
Independent photos/Steve James
“Sixteen and five to finish the year, it’s nothing we should be ashamed of. I’m very happy with the overall effort for the year,” Howe said. “Our season average was 61 percent of our buckets came off of assists. And that’s awesome. When more than half of your baskets are coming off assists that’s unselfish basketball.”
But on Wednesday, North Country — which came in with a 7-13 record against a more challenging schedule than the Tigers faced — frustrated MUHS with tough man-to-man defense that quickly doubled the Tigers when they attacked the basket, their preferred mode of attack.
The Falcons forced 20 turnovers, seven in the pivotal third quarter as they took the lead; outrebounded the Tigers, 44-31, including team rebounds; and were able to penetrate against the Tigers’ man defense.
“They played an excellent game. They moved the ball well. They cut well. They were driving the middle really well, and they weren’t looking to score when they drove. It’s a drive and dish right off to the blocks,” Howe said. “They got those charge calls that made a huge difference. They stepped in right at the right time, and we’re a drive-to-the-basket team. And that caused a lot of chaos.”
The Tigers’ full-court pressure disrupted the Falcons in the first period, when MUHS forced nine of the 17 NCU turnovers and took a 17-8 lead. The Tigers closed the period on a 10-0 run: a Spencer Cadoret three; two Tyler Buxton transition hoops, one of them a three-point play; and two Parker Beatty free throws.
The Falcons settled down in the second quarter and edged closer: MUHS led at the half, 31-27. Six Falcons scored in the period, and at one point they tied the score at 22-22. A five-point trip helped the Tigers regain the lead: Buxton scored in transition and was fouled and missed the free throw, but Cadoret rebounded and was fouled. On the inbounds play Gabe Dunn nailed a three-pointer.
But things went south in the third period, when the Tigers committed seven turnovers and scored just four points in the first 5:30. Meanwhile Falcon guard Derrick Breault and forward Alex Haugwitz combined for 16 points as the Falcons outscored the Tigers, 19-8, and took a 46-39 lead entering the fourth. Two late hoops by Jeffrey Lokatys kept the Tigers in the running.
The Tiger defense held the Falcons to one point in the first 5:10 of the fourth. Meanwhile Cadoret sank two threes to cut the lead to 47-45. Breault hit a three at 2:50 to make it a five-point game, but Buxton spun to the hoop at 2:25 to make it 50-47.
Haugwitz responded in the lane at the other end at 2:10, and after a Tiger layup bid rolled off the rim, the Tigers had to start fouling as the Falcons stalled. North Country hit nine of 12 from the line to ice the win, with only a Zach Dunn three to answer for MUHS.
TIGER SENIOR SPENCER Cadoret attacks the basket for two of his 10 points in the Tigers’ 61-50 loss to visiting North Country on Wednesday in a first-round boys’ basketball Division I playoff game. MUHS had earned a home game with a 16-win campaign.
Independent photo/Steve James
Buxton, a junior, finished with 17 points and five boards. The three Tiger seniors all contributed, Cadoret with 10 points and six rebounds, Parker Beatty with six points and 11 rebounds despite being slowed by an injury, and Zach Dunn with seven points and five boards. Lokatys, a junior, added seven points.
Howe praised the Tigers’ chemistry.
“The camaraderie is wonderful. This group, they’re tight-knit,” he said. “They will be even tighter next year. We lose three wonderful seniors who are great guys. But they’ll play AAU together. They’ll play all summer at the park together.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.
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