By ANDY KIRKALDY
BRISTOL — The No. 7 Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team took control early in Wednesday’s first-round Division II playoff game against visiting No. 10 Woodstock, and the Eagles never trailed in a 60-39 victory.
Mount Abe improved to 12-9, while the Wasps finished at 8-13. The Eagles advance to a Saturday afternoon quarterfinal at undefeated No. 2 Burr & Burton (21-0), a 30-point winner over No. 15 Randolph on Tuesday. The Eagles and Bulldogs did not meet this season.
On Wednesday the Eagles moved the ball crisply, forced 33 Wasp turnovers by moving their feet well in their zone press and in their 3-2 zone, got points from nine players, and led 32-15 at the half before repelling a mild third-period rally.
“It was one of the better 32-minute stretches we put together,” said Mount Abe coach Connie LaRose. “We kept our composure and stuck to our game plan.”
LaRose said she was particularly happy with the Eagles’ balanced scoring: Six Eagles had at least six points. In double figures were sophomore guard Jen Loyer with 12, along with a team-high six rebounds, plus three assists and three steals; senior guard Paige Wener, 11, plus five assists and four rebounds; and senior guard Jade Dingler, 10, plus five steals and three assists.
Also contributing were senior center Georgia Winters (seven points, four rebounds and several blocks), junior forward Shanna Gebo (seven points, four rebounds and three steals), freshman forward Lydia Stearns (six points), and senior forward Jill Huizenga (four steals).
“We had contributions from a lot of kids, and that’s always good at tournament time,” LaRose said, adding that “We’ve talked the last couple days that we really had to spread (the scoring) out ... and they accomplished that tonight.”
Dingler, Winters and Stearns combined for 14 first-quarter points as the Eagles took a 16-8 lead after one period. Loyer came off the bench to spark the Eagles in the second with eight points, including two sweet moves inside, and some creative passing.
Wasp guard Tiara Barcomb got hot in the third period, hitting three treys and 13 of her game-high 17 points. When a Wasp forward converted an offensive board at 2:30, the Eagle lead shrank to 40-29.
But Loyer hit a jumper at 1:40 to break a 3:25 scoreless stretch for the Eagles, and Dingler and Wener set up hoops by Loyer and Gebo to make it 47-34 after three periods. The Eagles then dug in on defense and held the Wasps scoreless for the first 5:40 of the final period to put the game away. Gebo opened the quarter with two pretty drives sandwiched around a Dingler steal for a layup. At 5:22 Gebo stole the ball and fed Wener on the break to make it 53-34 and end any drama.
LaRose knows that Burr & Burton will provide a stiffer challenge, even if the Bulldogs played a much softer schedule than the Eagles, but believes her team is capable or rising to the occasion.
“It will be a tough match-up,” LaRose said. “They’re certainly very athletic, and they have a good big kid. If we can make our press work and make good decisions on offense, I think we can give them a game.”