Lots of playoff headlines yesterday and today.
The big news on Sunday came out of Middlebury College, where in the wake of the men’s basketball team’s convincing 89-73 takedown of Albertus Magnus on Saturday night, the NCAA awarded the 26-3 Panthers a sectional tournament this weekend. (See details on that game and photos from the Panthers’ Friday win over Morrisville in our Monday paper.)
The Panthers have now won 26 straight games at home. If they extend that streak to 28 in a row, Coach Jeff Brown’s crew will make its second straight appearance in a NCAA Division III final four in Salem, Va., this one on March 16 and 17.
On Friday at 7:30 p.m., Middlebury, ranked No. 4 in the most recent d3hoops.com poll, will meet unranked Scranton (22-7). At 5:30 p.m., No. 5 Cabrini (28-1) faces No. 21 Eastern Connecticut State (24-5). The winners will meet in Pepin Gymnasium on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Tickets will go fast: The past three games in Pepin — the Panthers’ NESCAC quarterfinal win over Williams and this past weekend’s two regional victories — have sold out. Ticket prices are $7 a day for adults, $4 for students, and they will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at http://boxoffice.middlebury.edu/index.php. They will also be on sale at 443-6433 or at the McCullough box office during normal business hours. Some tickets are expected to be returned from visiting teams and will go on sale at noon on Thursday. If any tickets remain (don’t count on it), they will go on sale at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Pepin lobby.
Also on Sunday, the Panther women’s hockey team defeated rival Amherst for the NESCAC crown in dramatic fashion, 1-0, in overtime on a Lauren Greer goal. Details and photos from what was a terrific game will be in our Thursday paper. That victory earned the Panthers the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA D-III tournament, and they will host Plattsburgh this Saturday, also at 7 p.m. Tickets won’t be as hard to come by — although parking spots might be — for a game that promises to be highly competitive: Middlebury won at Plattsburgh on Nov. 27, 4-1, but had to score in the final minute of regulation to pull out a 4-4 tie at home on Feb. 18.
On Monday, Vermont high school girls’ basketball pairings came out, and the Vermont Principals’ Association, as expected, awarded Mount Abraham (17-3) the No. 1 seed in Division II. Because three teams dropped out of the D-II playoffs, leaving only 15 participants, the Eagles received a first-round bye and will not host a game until Friday. Then, at 7 p.m., they will meet the winner of a Tuesday game between No. 8 Mill River and No. 9 Springfield, both 10-10. The Eagles did not face SHS this winter, but the Minutemen gave them a battle in Mount Abe’s home opener, a 38-35 Eagle win in which Mount Abe lost a big early lead.
If Mount Abe holds serve, next up would be a Monday semifinal at the Barre Auditorium against either No. 4 Milton or No. 13 Vergennes. VUHS earned that No. 13 seed with a 6-14 record that included three wins in their final five games. But the Commodores will have to reverse their in-season fortunes when they face the 14-6 Yellowjackets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday: Milton defeated them twice, 50-42 and 58-30.
Also in D-II, Otter Valley got the No. 15 seed with a 5-14 record. The Otters may be a tough out: They recently lost to No. 3 Fair Haven by five and No. 2 Hartford by six. They will have to add a few points against Hartford this time, as they drew the Hurricanes in the first round, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. In their other match-up this winter, Hartford won by 21. An upset by OV would mean a road trip to either No. 7 Lake Region or No. 10 Bellows Falls. The Otters did not see either LRU or BF this winter.
Finally, in D-I Middlebury drew the No. 11 seed with its 7-11 record and will travel on Tuesday to No. 6 Mount Anthony (12-8). The teams have met many times through the years, but not this winter. If the Tigers make the most of their long bus ride to Bennington, they would almost certainly face Lake Division foe Colchester, the No. 3 seed, on Friday at 7 p.m. The 15-5 Lakers own 23- and 18-point wins over the Tigers this season.
As always, best of luck to all.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].