Lakers get past Eagle girls’ hoop

EAGLE SOPHOMORE GEN Forand cruises in for a layup during the Mount Abe girls’ basketball team’s Tuesday game in Bristol.
Photo by Mark Bouvier Photography

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team did a lot of things right during Tuesday’s nip-and-tuck home game vs. Colchester, including taking care of the ball, outrebounding the taller Lakers, playing strong man-to-man defense, and getting good looks at the basket in the fourth quarter. 

Unfortunately, it seemed there was an invisible lid on the hoop at their end of the court in the late going — those good looks just wouldn’t drop, and the Division I Lakers escaped with a 35-30 victory that pushed their record to 11-5 and their winning streak to nine games. 

Coach Koran Cousino’s Eagles were disappointed by the setback, but she said she thought they showed resiliency and chemistry that could serve them well in the upcoming D-II playoffs. The Eagles, 11-7 and in seventh place in D-II with two regular season games remaining, should host a postseason game before going on the road for a quarterfinal.

“In other games we’ve had huge letdowns, particularly in the third quarter, and I didn’t see that,” Cousino said. “We didn’t give up.”

In particular Cousino was happy the Eagles are showing improvement in so many areas. She cited turnovers first, with the Eagles often reaching well into double digits in that stat.

“Tonight we had nine turnovers, and that’s a huge improvement,” Cousino said. “And going into this stretch of the season I’m seeing that. I’m asking this stuff out of them, and they’re following through on the court.”

EAGLE JUNIOR FORWARD Louisa Painter makes a move during the Mount Abe girls’ Tuesday home game. Painter scored 10 points.
Photo by Mark Bouvier Photography

Then there is rebounding. Counting team rebounds, the Independent had the Eagles with a 31-25 advantage on the boards on Tuesday. All the Eagles chipped in, led by 11 from Mckenzie Griner and four apiece from Louisa Painter, Hazel Guillmette and Gen Forand. 

“We are continuing to get better on defensive rebounding and offensive rebounding,” Cousino said.

On Tuesday the Eagles started slowly, falling behind by 10-3 with 2:48 left in the first quarter, with only a Painter three-pointer denting the Lakers’ man-to-man defense. At the other end Lakers Anya Davis and Nicole Norton combined for nine early points.

Then Cousino called for time and inserted junior guard Hazel Guillmette and sophomore guard/forward Gen Forand into the lineup. 

“They’re so scrappy on defense, and they really do provide a spark because of their intensity,” Cousino said.

The Eagles ratcheted up the pressure on the Lakers, and they also began to work the ball inside to Griner. 

Griner and Painter then each scored in the paint to make it 10-7 after one. Laker Emma Litchfield drove for a layup 50 seconds into the second period to make it 12-7, but those were the only points the Eagles allowed in the period. 

It still took a little while for the Eagles’ offense to kick in, but they closed the half on an 11-0 run over the final 3:50: a Morgan Barnard layup on a Griner feed, a Griner three-point play on a putback, two Griner free throws after another offensive rebound, and in the final minute a Painter drive and two more Griner free throws to make it 18-12, Mount Abe.

The Lakers regrouped and opened the second half with an 8-2 run, including four points from Davis, to tie the game at 20-20 at 5:53; a Griner putback was the only Eagle answer.

Neither team did much offensively the rest of the period, which ended with the Eagles up, 25-24. Painter’s second three and a Griner layup set up by Hazel Guillmette accounted for the Eagle points.

EAGLE JUNIOR GUARD Hazel Guillmette drives into the paint during the Eagle girls’ basketball team’s Tuesday home game vs. Colchester.
Photo by Mark Bouvier Photography

The Eagles still lead at 30-28 at 4:20 of the third on a Forand layup assisted by Carley Cook and a go-ahead Hazel Guillmette three, but then the invisible lid was clamped on the hoop. Eagle layups rolled off the rim, free throws bounced away harmlessly, and three-pointers hit back iron. 

At the other end the Lakers edged ahead. Alexis Litchfield hit a three at 3:30 to make it 31-30, and the Lakers added two transition hoops when the Eagles crashed the offensive boards and pressed to get the ball back.

Forward Madison Booska led the Lakers with 11 points, and Davis scored nine.

Griner scored a game-high 13 and added two blocks and two assists to her rebounding total. Painter scored 10, Abba Parker had three steals; and Hazel Guillmette chipped in two steals.

With the Eagles playing well in many areas, offense appears to be the final frontier. Cousino said it will be vital for the Eagles to “keep our composure” at that end of the floor, and also keep looking inside to Griner as an option, both for her scoring and ability to send the ball back out to open teammates.

“The biggest thing for us going into the playoffs is we need to be patient offensively. We’re not a super offensive team. We’ve known that right from the beginning,” Cousino said. “There’s no shot clock. We need to relax and move the ball.” 

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