VERGENNES — The Mount Abraham Union High School on Thursday rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to win at rival Vergennes, 47-41.
The scoring of freshman guard Ashlie Fay (10 of her team-high 16 points in the final period) and the passing and defense of senior guard Jenn Loyer (nine points, seven assists, eight steals) sparked the Eagles’ 20-5 fourth-quarter margin.
The 10-6 Eagles hold the No. 2 spot in Division II by a few-hundredths of a quality point over Lyndon. But Coach Connie LaRose said the Eagles must display more consistency and focus for 32 minutes if they are to make a serious title run.
At the same time, LaRose hopes her team can take a lesson from Thursday’s final eight minutes and apply it for a full four quarters.
“If you’re going to go anywhere in the tournament, you’re going to experience games where you’re going to be battling back for 32 minutes,” she said. “You’re going to battle some teams that are going to play you tough every minute you’re on the floor,”
That’s the kind of effort VUHS gave, LaRose said. The 3-13 Commodores shrugged off 14 first-quarter turnovers and a 21-10 second-quarter Mount Abe lead to tie the game at the half and then dominate the third period.
“Vergennes played hard tonight,” she said. “They gave us everything they could and then some. I feel very thankful to come out of here with a win.”
Senior guard Ali Provost poured in 24 points to lead the VUHS attack, senior guard Alexa Higbee and junior guard Tabby Danyow took turns defending Loyer well, and junior center Hannah Curler (eight rebounds) helped VUHS earn a 33-27 edge on the boards.
Coach Billy Waller said he wished that hard work had paid off in a win, but that the effort should encourage the Commodores, who he believes will bounce back vs. Missisquoi.
“We really need a win against Missisquoi on Wednesday. The girls came in with high morale. We had a really good week of practice,” he said. “We just need to move forward.”
Junior forward Lydia Stearns helped the Eagles take a 12-6 lead after one period by scoring six of her nine points. Fay came in to start the second period and hit three baskets in a 9-4 run that pushed the lead to 21-10. Two hoops were on back-door cuts assisted by Loyer, and junior guard Sarah Sayles (nine points, four steals, three assists) set up Stearns in the post.
But VUHS answered with better ballhandling and defense. Five Commodores scored — Provost, Higbee, Chelsea Grant, Caitlin Chaput and Allison Straley — in a 14-3 run that made it 24-24 at the half.
Then they shut Mount Abe down in the third quarter while Provost went on a 10-point scoring spree. When Provost converted a steal into a hoop at 1:40, it was 34-24. Loyer finally hit a three-pointer for Mount Abe, but Provost drove for two to close the quarter, and it was 36-27.
Then LaRose put Fay back in and she scored three layups in 1:15, two assisted by Loyer. VUHS senior forward Brooke Bougor broke the spell with a jumper at 6:30 to make it 38-33, but Loyer set up another Fay layup.
Waller called for time with the lead at 38-35. “Every time our defender looked at the basketball she went behind us,” he said of Fay.
The timeout didn’t help. After a steal, Sayles hit two free throws at 4:37, and at 2:35 Fay fed Sayles on the break, and the Eagles led, 39-38. Provost then responded by going coast-to-coast to put VUHS back on top.
Then the Eagles missed twice, but Fay and Stearns grabbed the rebounds. Finally, Sayles set up senior center K.C. Cousineau’s lay-up out of the scramble, and it was 41-40, Eagles, at 1:30. Cousineau then took a charge from Provost, Provost’s fifth foul. Loyer and Fay soon each sank two free throws, points offset by only one Danyow free throw. Sayles then iced the game on the break with another feed from Fay.
In all, LaRose believes the Eagles can learn from the tough win.
“The good teams will find a way to overcome a night when not much is going right,” LaRose said. “I don’t know if I’d put us in that class yet, but it seems like each night out somebody else is finding a way to do a little piece of the puzzle. And the more of those little pieces we can put together, the better prepared we will be come tournament time.”
Waller said the game showed the Commodores can hold their own in D-II.
“If they continue to play hard, they have a chance,” he said. “Lamoille has a good record (15-1) in our division, but no one else has run away with it. Mount Abe is the second best team in our division, and we know we can play with them.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.