Tiger girls rally, but Enosburg holds on
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ basketball team on Tuesday was missing its starting point guard and two key reserves due to injury, but still overcame a slow start to give visiting Enosburg a battle in a 41-32 loss.
The 4-9 Tigers trailed the 8-8 Hornets by 24-8 with about three minutes to go in the first half. But they outscored Enosburg the rest of the way, thanks to hard work on the boards and on defense and to tactical changes made by Coach Chris Altemose.
Altemose switched the Tigers out of their usual man-to-man defense into a 2-3 zone. And after experimenting with other players at the point (two of the injured players were starting point guard Cady Pitner and backup Jazmyn Hurley), Altemose asked freshman forward Solstice Binder is she would try her hand.
Her speed and ballhandling proved to be a good answer to the Enosburg pressure, and the Tigers went from 16 first-half turnovers to nine in the second half. And an active zone took away much of the quick Hornets’ ability to penetrate.
If a few more shots and free throws had dropped, especially in the third quarter, the Tigers could easily have prevailed.
“We have a number of people out right now, so trying to get our people together to click a little bit … it took a little time for us to figure some things out,” Altemose said. “And then once we did, we started doing a little better job of getting some decent shots. The defense picked up once we went to some more zone.”
Critically, he said, the Tigers did not get discouraged during the early Hornet onslaught.
“I’m just proud of them for not quitting and battling the whole game,” Altemose said.
Enosburg dominated the first quarter, forcing 10 turnovers and scoring the first 15 points, seven from Lilly Robtoy and four from Kayla Gervais. Nine of those points came in transition, mostly taking advantage of the man-to-man pressure the Hornets were applying.
Only a bucket in the lane in the quarter’s final minute by Tiger senior forward and leading scorer Ele Sellers put MUHS on the first-period scoreboard, and it was 15-2.
The Tigers began to show life in the second period, but still fell behind by 16 points twice. Hornet Gabby Spaulding’s fast-break hoop made it 17-2, but then Binder grabbed a defensive rebound on the next Hornet possession and streaked coast-to-coast for a layup. Sellers followed with a hoop inside at 5:45, and it was 17-6.
Gervais followed with a three-pointer and a steal conversion to make it 22-6 at 5:00, but the genie was out of the bottle. The Tigers — namely Sellers and Binder (who looked like she was shot out of a cannon on one coast-to-coast hoop) — outscored the Hornets by 7-2 over the rest of the period as the switch to a zone also paid off, and the MUHS deficit was 24-13 at the half.
The Tigers then outplayed the Hornets in the third period (their edge on the boards was 15-8 in the quarter, 44-27 overall, including team rebounds), but missed a couple layups, and went only two-of-six on free throws. The bottom line is they failed to make up ground on the scoreboard despite cutting Enosburg’s lead to seven twice (24-17 and 28-21). The Hornets still led by 11 after three periods, 32-21.
The Hornets then opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run to make it 38-21 before Tiger senior Kelsey Altemose’s three at 5:30 cut the lead to 14. The Tiger defense allowed only four free throws the rest of the way. But the lid also stayed on the Tiger hoop. Binder and Sellers combined for seven more points, but only one more basket, a Binder putback, and the Hornets held serve for their 11-point victory.
Gervais led Enosburg with 13 points, followed by Robtoy (nine) and Montannah Ovitt (six).
Sellers (15 points), Binder (13) and Altemose (three) scored all the Tiger points; Sellers and Binders did most of the damage on the boards; and all the Tigers deserve credit for their defensive work.
“Our girls hung tough. They fought back,” Altemose said. “Had we not dug ourselves a hole, obviously it would have been a different story. And a couple shots around the rim could have gone for us, but that’s basketball.”
Overall, he saw the game as a continuation of a big win at Missisquoi the previous Wednesday that he called the team’s best effort of the season.
“I asked the girls tonight to put together back-to-back excellent performances. I wanted them to play hard. I wanted them to believe in each other and have fun,” Altemose said. “And I know we didn’t win this one, but for three quarters of this game that was a good performance for us.”
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