Sports

Eagle hoop soars over Tigers

TIGER GUARD GABE Dunn tips the ball away from Mount Abe forward Lucas Jensen in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game in Middlebury, won 58-44 by the visitors from Bristol.

MIDDLEBURY — The visiting Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ basketball team used tough defense, transition offense and ball movement to surprise host Middlebury on Tuesday, 58-44.
The 2-2 Eagles forced 20 turnovers in both man defense and a 1-2-2 press they turned into a dozen fast-break points. Mount Abe received at least four points from seven players, led by senior forward Quincy Cook’s game-high 16, including a breakaway dunk.
Most importantly, said Coach Martin Clark, they bounced back from two vacation-week losses by moving their feet and playing hard.
“That’s the biggest thing. We came out and hustled,” Clark said. “And things kind of fell into place from there. Our guys were moving on both ends of the court, offense and defense, not giving them too many easy opportunities.”
Also critical early on, Clark said, was the work of Cook and fellow senior forward Koby LaRose, who combined for 10 first-quarter points as the Eagles took a 14-11 lead.
“We want to put the focus on them early so it takes the pressure off our guards,” Clark said.
Clark also credited the defensive work of senior Griff Paradee on Tiger sophomore leading scorer Max Alberts, both in denying him the ball and contesting shots.
“Griff did a great job,” he said.
Disappointed MUHS Coach John Howe said his talented 1-3 Tigers get along well and play with energy, but simply haven’t meshed on the court yet.
“We’re too individualistic, that’s the problem,” Howe said. “We need to take better care of the ball. We slow it down, and we don’t have patience in our offense. When we speed it up we make too many big mistakes. We just need to find a way to gel.”
The Tigers hung with the Eagles in that first quarter. Senior Drew Gill hit a three and a putback, and sophomore center Penn Riney scored twice inside, once on a nice feed from Alberts, and the Eagle lead was just three after one period.
The Tigers then made a run to open the second quarter, as senior guard Karic Riche sandwiched a sweet reverse layup and a go-ahead corner three around senior forward Wesley Hirdler’s jumper to make it 18-16, at 6:25.
But senior Eagle guard Grayson Lyons came in off the bench to score all eight of his points in the next three minutes, and it as 24-18, Eagles. The Tigers managed only three more points in the quarter’s final 6:25 as the Eagles put on the press, while Eagle senior subs Bret Sargent and Lucas Jensen combined for five points in the final 3:30 to make it 29-21 at the break.
To open the second half, Cook stole the ball near midcourt and slammed it home as the Eagle bench rose and celebrated. That play sparked a 9-2 run that pushed the Eagle lead to 38-23 at 6:20.
The Tigers cut the lead to 10 on a Riche three and a Riney putback. But that was as close as Middlebury would come. Cook hit a short jumper, Paradee scored on the break after a turnover, and a three by Eagle senior guard Miles Peterson made it 45-28 with 3:45 left in the period. The teams traded points the rest of the way.
To be fair, the Tigers did generate open looks that might have fallen on another night, and they forced 17 Eagle turnovers, seven in the fourth quarter. Riche led MUHS with 12 points, followed by Hirdler and Gill, nine apiece; Riney, seven, and Alberts, five.
Howe said he will review film, try to work out the kinks before a possible postseason run, and figure out how to win a Friday rematch with the Eagles on their home court in Bristol.
“We’ve got a chance to go to Mount Abe on Friday and see if anything happens,” Howe said. “At this point I’m hopeful we can find a cure in the next two days to what ails us.”
Also contributing points for Mount Abe were Paradee, nine; LaRose, eight; Peterson, five; and Sargent and junior Daniel Rodriguez, four apiece.
Clark said he hopes his team learned from the victory.
“I’m really happy with our effort tonight,” he said. “I hope we can move forward from that.”
And he added he wasn’t sure if the Eagles knew how rare a Mount Abe win over MUHS in boys’ hoop has been.
“I don’t know if they know what it means, but I do,” Clark said. “It’s been a long time.”

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