VERGENNES — The Mount Abraham Union High School girls’ basketball team rallied from a 15-3 deficit at Vergennes on Thursday for a 39-34 victory that was Coach Connie Larose’s 300th. (See related stories.)
Mount Abe senior Shanna Gebo said LaRose tried and failed in advance to hide that news from the Eagles.
“In the huddle we talked about how we knew it was her 300th,” Gebo said. “And she started blushing and getting red when we told her we really wanted to do it for her. And then of course she was just like, ‘Nope, it’s for you. Don’t think about it being for me.’”
It was a key win for the 7-9 Eagles, who stand at No. 7 in Division II in a tight race for playoff position. The Commodores fell to 4-10, but they remained at No. 8, just ahead of U-32.
VUHS coach Billy Waller said a chance had been lost when the Commodores couldn’t build on that early 12-point lead: It was 16-11 at the half after Eagle Sophie Owen-Jankowski nailed two second-quarter three-pointers.
“We had many opportunities and didn’t build on it, and I knew that was going to come back to haunt us,” Waller said.
In the opening period, junior Ali Provost (13 points) scored seven quick points, and Kathleen Van Wyck (5 points, 11 boards) hit a free throw after grabbing an offensive rebound at 5:02. At 6:45, Eagle guard Jenn Loyer (16 points) hit a three for the Eagles, and that was it: It was 8-3 after one.
Early in the second, Tabby Danyow scored twice for VUHS, and a Provost trey made it 15-3. Loyer drove at 5:45 to break a nine-minute Eagle drought, and then VUHS forward Hannah Curler (6 points, 9 rebounds) hit a free throw at 4:41. But VUHS kept missing, Owen-Jankowski sank her treys, and it was 16-11 at the half.
Then, LaRose said, her team responded after showing first-half nerves in front of a big crowd.
“I told them at halftime, ‘I know you guys are nervous, but this is a wonderful atmosphere to play basketball in. This is high school basketball at its best ... You’ve got great fans that are cheering their hearts out for both teams ... Don’t be intimidated. Feed off of it,’” LaRose said. “And either my message got through to them, or they relaxed on their own and got it together.”
The Eagles quickly tied the score, thanks in part to defense by forward Lydia Stearns (5 blocks, 7 rebounds). Loyer hit a jumper and fed Sarah Sayles (8 points) on the break, and after a Provost drive, Loyer drained a three and it was 18-18.
The Eagles took their first lead on a three-point play on an offensive rebound by K.C. Cousineau (10 boards), but Hillary Delisle’s three-point play helped VUHS make it 25-25 after three.
Two Van Wyck free throws to open the fourth gave VUHS the lead, and at 3:49 Curler tied the game one last time, 30-30.
Meanwhile, the Eagles had made seven straight free throws to stay in the game. Then they took the lead at 3:37 on a Sayles free throw, and at 2:40 Cousineau hit inside to make it 33-30. Stearns and Gebo made key defensive plays, and the Eagles hit six of nine free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
For the Commodores, Dani Stapleford added six rebounds as they earned a 38-33 edge, while Alexa Higbee had six assists. Waller was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We really didn’t play well the other night against Mount Mansfield, and they really recovered and played hard,” he said.
LaRose said many Eagles contributed.
“The second half, it was just about little bits from everybody,” she said.
And LaRose was happy to reach the milestone.
“It’s exciting. It really is,” she said. “The kids obviously found out, and I’m excited they could win and feel like they really gave me something.”