BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School boys’ basketball team pulled away in the fourth quarter from stubborn visitor Middlebury on Tuesday for a 47-31 victory that snapped the 3-4 Eagles’ three-game losing streak.
The 1-9 Tigers cut what had been a 30-22 third-quarter Eagle lead to three, 32-29, when Tiger junior guards Charlie Cluss and Brendan Burrell beat the third-quarter buzzer and opened the fourth quarter, respectively, with 15-foot jumpers.
After the Tigers missed two free throws that could have cut the lead to one, Eagle senior forward Bela Dobkowski (11 points, 12 rebounds) sank a trey at 7:10 to make it 35-29. Burrell responded with another jumper at 6:40 to cut the lead to 35-31, but the Tigers would not score again.
And down the stretch the Eagles sank six straight free throws, four by senior tri-captain Adam Pouliot and two by senior Greg Scott, while Dobkowski and junior point guard Cam Skerritt-Perta drove for key hoops as Mount Abe took charge.
Pouliot said it took a while for the Eagles to get rolling — their 18-point first half included six points in the final two minutes, with two hoops from senior forward Jake McDonough, to snap a 12-12 tie and send them into the locker room with an 18-12 lead.
“We started off slow and weren’t making any shots. We just kept fighting hard and eventually they went down for us,” Pouliot said.
Pouliot said the Eagles’ first-quarter switch from zone defense to man-to-man eventually speeded up the tempo of the game and got the Eagles’ offense rolling to produce the key win.
“We needed it bad. We didn’t want to keep dropping down,” Pouliot said. “Hopefully we can get a win on Thursday and keep on getting better as the season goes on.”
MUHS coach Chris Altemose said his rebuilding team continues to put out the kind of effort that he hopes will translate into more steady play.
“They show that they can do it, it’s just that they are inconsistent,” Altemose said of his team. “And my hope is that they keep working hard and buying into what we’re trying to do so that we can develop consistency and at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, start to put a good 32 minutes together. But they’re trying. They’re working hard out there. They’re battling.”
Bright spots for the Tigers included their steady defense, notably that of Burrell at the point, and the inside play of senior forward Nick Darrow, whose team-high 10 points included four straight hoops in the paint during the third quarter to keep his team within striking distance.
The Tigers got six points each from Burrell and senior forward Devin Bradford, five from junior forward Carl Leduc, and four from Cluss. Darrow and Bradford also helped the Tigers battle the bigger Eagles to a near stalemate on the boards: Mount Abe held a 32-31 edge.
But turnovers continue to be a problem for MUHS. Although Tuesday’s total of 19 was below their average, the nine the Tigers committed in the second quarter prevented them from taking charge of a game that was at that point up for grabs.
At the same time, Altemose also credited the Eagles for what they did right.
“We just shoot ourselves in the foot too many times with turnovers to win a game like this. Mount Abe, they made some big plays. They did a nice job adjusting to the different defense we threw at them. They had some kids make some big shots to extend their lead,” he said.
For Mount Abe, McDonough’s 11 points included five in a row in the fourth, and he also hauled in 10 boards. Pouliot finished with six points, five boards and two steals; Skerritt-Perta had nine points and two steals; and Shawn Marcelle sank two treys for six points.
Despite the losing streak, Mount Abe coach Bill Leggett said his team has remained focused and together. On Tuesday, he was pleased with the offensive balance, with all his starters recording between six and 11 points.
“I like our fight as a team. It’s just a matter of getting to be a little more cohesive (offensively),” Leggett said. “We’re really trying to look for guys to complement each other and have a more balanced situation, and that’s really what we had today, and that’s encouraging. I think we’re starting to play together and feel comfortable with each other.”