BRISTOL — Coaches will say they work all season to get their teams to play their best to the end of the game, come tournament time.
Given that, Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball coach Connie LaRose had to like what she saw of her No. 7 Eagles against No. 10 Springfield in Wednesday’ night’s first-round Division II playoff game.
The 9-12 Eagles played their best full 32 minutes of the season against the 4-17 Cosmos, who took the long bus ride home after absorbing a 64-22 loss in a game that effectively ended at 2:22 of the second quarter.
That’s when Eagle junior guard Jenn Loyer (23 points, 5 assists, 5 steals) sank a trey in the middle of a 12-0 Eagle run. It followed four straight Cosmo turnovers (of their 11 in the period and 29 in the game) and made the score 31-13.
The closest Springfield came the rest of the way was 17 points, when Cosmo forward Kayla Perlam opened the second half with a hoop in the lane that made it 34-17. Mount Abe responded with a 17-0 run in which four Eagles scored, and it was 51-17.
LaRose agreed that the Eagle team that played on Wednesday was the team she had been hoping to see all winter.
“It’s what I’ve seen flashes of, a couple minutes here, a couple minutes there. Tonight, they put the whole game together,” LaRose said. “That is what they can do when they believe they can do it.”
Pretty much everything the Eagles did, they did well. They won the rebound battle, 46-40, as junior center K.C. Cousineau keyed Mount Abe on the glass with 14 rebounds. Cousineau also added eight points, including the first six of the game to help the Eagles off to a quick start.
The Eagles had only eight turnovers through three quarters and racked up 17 assists on 26 baskets, a fair measure of how well they moved the ball, both on the break and in their half-court sets.
Their press also forced many of Springfield’s 29 turnovers, and they rarely allowed the Cosmos an uncontested shot.
Loyer said the Eagles were determined to play their best.
“We decided we were just going to work as a team and put it all together and use everybody... and just do it all for everyone,” Loyer said. “And just get a win.”
There were plenty of contributors. Senior forward Shanna Gebo’s stat sheet reflected her strong play: 12 points, five assists and four rebounds. Sophomore forward Lydia Stearns had seven points, four boards and a blocked shot; senior guard Sophie Owen-Jankowski had four points, four rebounds and two assists; sophomore guard Sara Sayles had four points and two assists; and junior forward Kayla Briggs had four points and three rebounds.
The Eagles also played with poise — they seemed unusually calm on the court.
Loyer said they listened to some advice from LaRose.
“Coach told us to have fun, so we decided we’d have fun with it,” she said.
LaRose, whose team will play at No. 2 Lamoille on Saturday at 7 p.m., said the poise carried over from a good practice the day before.
“They had good energy,” she said. “It was relaxed, intense but focused.”