Eagles girls soar to big victory vs. Tigers
BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team started and finished strong on Friday night to turn back visiting Middlebury, 66-36.
The Eagles bolted to a 15-0 lead behind 11 early points from leading scorer Maia Jensen. But Mount Abe had to withstand a spirited surge from the Tigers before reasserting control with a decisive 17-3 run that closed the third quarter and opened the fourth. That surge gave Mount Abe an insurmountable 55-30 lead with six minutes to go.
Keys to Mount Abe’s eventual big victory were pressure defense that forced 29 turnovers, including seven Jensen steals, and a big advantage on the boards. Counting team rebounds, the Eagles piled up a 44-24 margin on the glass, with Payton Vincent (seven) and Louisa Painter (six) leading the way.
Coach Koran Cousino, whose Eagle team improved to 6-8 — that record includes seven losses by eight points or fewer — was happy about the rebounding.
“We’ve spent some time recently just working on position, position defensively, which will enable us to get defensive rebounds,” Cousino said.
She was also pleased to see grit from the Eagles on the boards: “There was some gutsy basketball tonight.”
Cousino also noted the Eagles remained poised when the Tigers made a run at them, moving the ball and racking up 16 assists (four from Madi Gile and three from Lucy Parker). The Eagles “settled down” rather than going into “scramble mode,” she said.
Meanwhile Tiger Coach Chris Altemose saw his Tiger team drop to 3-8. He also pointed to rebounding as a key factor.
“They outworked us on the boards, and that was a little disappointing, because we’ve been doing better with that and putting a lot of focus on it,” Altemose said.
When the Tigers made their run from down 15 to within eight late in the second period, he noted Solstice Binder came in and gave them a lift on the boards. He also pointed out in that stretch sophomore Kassidy Brown came off the bench and slowed Jensen down in the Tigers’ one-on-one defense.
“She helped us hold things in place for a little while,” Altemose said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get enough offense going.”
In that opening Eagle run, Jensen took it to the basket four times and nailed a three-pointer to make it 15-0 at 3:30. Gile also scored inside and set up Jensen’s three, and center MacKenzie Griner hit two free throws and chipped in two assists.
The Tigers finally got untracked against the Eagle 2-3 zone and countered with a 7-0 run that included a Binder layup assisted by Makayla Swan, an Ele Sellers three-point play in the lane, and a Lexi Whitney jumper. A Griner hoop then made it 17-7, Eagles, after one quarter.
In the second period, early points from Eagle Morgan Barnard and Tiger turnovers helped stretch that lead to 21-8, but the Tigers fought back. Eventually, a Binder putback, a Sellers bank shot in the lane, and Jazmyn Hurley’s three-pointer pulled the Tigers to within 28-20 at 2:40. The Eagles still led by eight when Piper Guilmette’s pressured jumper banked in at the buzzer pushed their lead to 33-23 at the break.
Mount Abe’s advantage was 11, 38-27, when Tiger Cady Pitner hit a jumper three minutes into the third quarter. And that’s when the Eagles went on their big 17-3 run. Before the end of the third period, Parker and Gile hit free throws, Barnard drove the baseline for a reverse layup, Jensen hit two buckets and two free throws, and Parker beat the buzzer with a three. At the other end, MUHS managed only three Sellers free throws, and the Eagles led by an insurmountable 51-30.
Sellers scored 16 points to lead the Tigers, followed by Binder with eight and Pitner with five.
Altemose gave the Eagles credit for wearing his team down, and the Tigers, who were coming off an overtime win at Vergennes, for working to get out of the early hole and make a run at Mount Abe.
“I was proud of them of them for responding, because I thought they did a nice job of digging out and getting us back in the game,” he said. “There’s some bright spots. We’ve just got to keep plugging away.”
Eagle contributors included Jensen, 26 points; Parker, seven points; Griner, 11 points, five boards, two blocks; Painter, five points, two assists; Barnard; five points; and Vincent, three steals to go with her team high in boards.
Cousino would like to see her team play as well on the road, where they are 1-7, as at home, although it’s fair to note that five of those six road losses are by six points or fewer. But Cousino said she would prefer a more consistent mindset whether the Eagles have a friendly crowd or not.
Cousino also said the team has retained a positive outlook despite its sub-.500 record, and she believes they will continue to improve.
“As much as I want to win every game, I know what we have endured is preparing us for the playoffs and the end of the season,” she said. “I don’t question the work ethic of this team. I don’t question how much they care.”
Note: An earlier version used the wrong last name for Eagle Lucy Parker. The reporter apologizes for the error.
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