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VUHS boys' basketball falls in championship game (with slideshow)

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bball11.jpg
VERGENNES UNION HIGH School senior Josh Carter sets up a play during the Division II state championship game in Barre Saturday afternoon. The Commodores lost the game, 59-31. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

By ANDY KIRKALDY

BARRE — Division II champion Springfield, the No. 4 seed, completed its march through the boys’ basketball playoffs on Saturday, when the Cosmos knocked off No. 2 Vergennes Union High School, 59-31, with their fourth straight dominant performance.

Springfield finished with a misleading 18-6 record. In the postseason the Cosmos held every opponent to 42 points or fewer and won every game by at least 21 points, including their 62-41 semifinal win over No. 1 Mill River.

Coach Peter Quinn’s Commodores finished at 19-5, a record that also could have been better if they had not been dogged by injuries all season long, notably to high-scoring junior Logan Williams. Others, including role player Jesse Tynan and all-star Connor Merrill, also missed time.

Quinn gave his team high marks for performing well all winter despite plenty of bad luck.

“I haven’t coached a team that has had more serious injuries and illnesses,” Quinn said. “It was only the last part of the year that we got people together. They handled adversity really well.”

On Saturday VUHS struggled against a Cosmo defense led by guards Brandon Boyle and Tyler Albee, and Quinn said the Commodores did not play their best, especially in a the second half, when they managed only eight points after leading at the break, 23-22.

“We didn’t perform offensively. We didn’t have a three (–pointer) the whole game, and that hasn’t happened all year. Obviously, give them some credit for some good D on that. And give us a little shame-on-us, because we really didn’t execute well,” Quinn said. “When they got that lead in the third quarter, we forced up a couple shots when we really should have stayed within our game.”

And then there was the fact the Cosmos fielded six-foot-three senior forward Grant White, who scored 33 of their 59 points, including five treys. White also outscored VUHS in the first 6:40 of the second half, 13-2, to put Springfield up, 35-25.

“It’s pretty obvious Grant White’s a nice player,” Quinn said. “We did a few good things against him. I thought Adam (Flynn) actually did a pretty nice job on him for much of the game when he was on him. But he’s a great shooter. He doesn’t need much room to shoot. He’s as good a player as I’ve seen this year.”

Springfield led after one, 15-11, as White erupted for 13 points. Merrill tossed in six of his team-high 16 and Josh Carter, Williams and Cam Curler added two points each as VUHS erased most of the Cosmos’ early 13-6 lead.

In the second quarter, with Flynn slowing White a little, VUHS finally tied the game at 20-20 on Merrill’s eighth point of the period, a turnaround jumper at 2:20. The Cosmos took the lead on two Ethan McCallister free throws, a play on which Carter, critically, picked up his third foul. VUHS then took the halftime lead on three-point play by Curler set up by a Jackson Alexander steal.

But then nothing went right after the break for the Commodores. When they did get an open look, the ball would rim out or fall short, and the Cosmos outrebounded them in the second half, 21-8, holding them to one shot per trip. In the fourth quarter the Cosmos made nine of 12 free throws as they pulled away.

Quinn said the Commodores never got on track. 

“I think we responded poorly to their pressure. Defensive teams provide pressure, and the offensive team can either back off or get more aggressive, and we backed off a little bit,” he said.

Merrill added seven rebounds to his point total, Curler had nine points and four rebounds, Williams had four points and three boards, and Alexander had four steals. The game was the last for four seniors: Carter, a standout at the point for three years; Curler and Flynn, both forwards; and guard Jackson Lalumiere.

Quinn said the Commodores were disappointed because they believed they were the better team, but should remember they had an outstanding winter.  

“It was a great offensive club. We shot so well all year. We had some great players. We had some great team energy,” he said. “I hope they had as much fun as I did, because it was a good season.”

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