March 24, 2011By Mal Boright Observer correspondent
They started out with three defeats in their first five games, but by the end of season the Champlain Valley Union girls basketball team challenged hard for the Division I state crown before falling to Rice Memorial High, 45-36, in the championship game before a huge and loud crowd of supporters at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium on March 10.
Head coach Jeff Evans cited teamwork and willingness to play defense as the vital parts in the girls’ march to an overall 17-7 record and the title contest.
“I loved this season and for many reasons,” Evans told The Citizen via e-mail. ‘Perhaps the biggest one being that we were truly a team.”
But it was a slow start to the campaign.
After knocking off Mount Mansfield Union in the home opener, the Redhawks got nipped by a point at South Burlington before winning at Vergennes.
Two straight losses followed: at home to Rice followed by a Klondike shooting night and 32-23 dinging in St. Johnsbury.
But through it all, Evans played at least 11 players per game and things quickly turned around.
A narrow 37-35 win at Mount Mansfield ignited a six-game wining streak that included victories over former tormentors South Burlington and Rice. The Redhawks were finally on the wing.
Playing time for all started paying off. Evans pointed out that contributions were coming from all players at different times.
“We won games with our bench, our bigs and our guards,” Evans said. “We were diverse enough to win games in a variety of ways. The kids did everything asked of them, particularly in the area of out-thinking opponents.”
The defense soon became the Redhawks raison d’etre, an element that Evans said was considered critical in preseason planning.
Pointing to the graduation losses of top scorers Allison Gannon and Kendal Kohlasch, Evans said a ton of offense was gone but replaced with some great defenders.
“Defense was a necessity,” he said. “We were not going to win shootouts. To take pressure off the offense we had to hold teams to low numbers.”
And those numbers went very low. The Hawks averaged 31 points allowed per game. That’s an A – pardon, Big D – in any grading system.
“The kids bought in on their own,” Evans said. “They were willing to defend the way we asked them to in our system.”
Evans felt that overall the team exceeded preseason expectations.
And for some there will be more. Evans said three senior captains; Shae Hulbert, Amanda Kinneston and Carlee Evans have been selected for the North team in the annual North-South girls’ all-star contest.