By Mal Boright
For a second straight year, the Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team played their way into the Division 1 championship game at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium.
And Saturday night, for a second straight year, Rice Memorial High came away with the big trophy, this time coming from behind inthe fourth quarter for a 46-41 triumph that kept huge and colorful followings of both teams enthralled and noisy until the very end.
For Rice, which prevailed 45-36 last year, it was the second straight crown, and fifth since 1999. The defeat was the Redhawks third in five seasons in title tests. Their last championship came in came in 1987.
The 19-5 Green Knights took the season series from 20-4 CVU, two games to one. The Green Knights won by overcoming a gruesome (0-14 shooting) first quarter by keeping its cool and defensively forcing 15 CVU turnovers while holding their own miscues to eight and losing the ball only once to a CVU steal. Thefts from defensive presses and traps had been a Redhawk mainstay.
Yet coach Ute Otley’s charges took a 29-22 advantage into the fourth quarter and appeared in good shape as the Knights had not found consistency at the offensive end of the floor.
But Rice’s 6-1 junior center Cassidy Derda (14 points, 12 rebounds) canned a layup and two free throws in the first minute and 10 seconds of the final reel to put Rice back in business.
Lazrin Schenck (13 points) hit a CVU layup after a set-up pass from Elana Bayer Pacht and Remi Donnelly snapped home a layup, pass from Sofia Lozon, around a driving layup by Rice guard Hailee Barron.
After that flurry, CVU led 33-28 but Rice, paced by Willistonians Tomilayo Akinpetide, Emily Chicoine and Ellen Boucher, erupted for a 13-2 run to bolt to a 41-35 edge with one minute to play.
Akinpetide contributed four points including the first three, Chicoine tossed in four points and hauled down three big rebounds, and Boucher went four-for-six from the foul line to keep the burst on track.
The Redhawks did not go quietly into the warm late winter. Schenck, on a pass from Emily Kinneston, ripped the ropes with a three-pointer to bring CVU within 44-41 with five seconds to go. Barron then applied the wrap with a pair of charity tosses at 3.5 seconds.
Rice took advantage of 32 free throw opportunities, hitting 19 to help make up for a deficit from the floor. The Knights, after that first quarter iceberg, finished with 13-for-46 from the floor for 28 percent.
CVU shot a decent 35 percent from the field and nine-for-15 at the line. Schenck, the CVU scoring leader, had five rebounds an assist and steal to go with her 13 points. Kinneston had 10 points and three rebounds while Bayer-Pacht had five rebounds and five assists.
Under the glass, Remi Donnelly collected nine rebounds to go with seven points. Caroline Limanek, troubled all season by an angry shoulder, turned in eight minutes off the bench and fired in seven points while taking down two rebounds and blocking two Rice shots.
Both Knights’ coach Tim Rice and Otley praised the final reel work of Chicoine, with Otley saying that the forward was quite possibly the difference in the game.
Othey said to media post-game that work for next season starts this week with sophomores Kinneston and Kaelyn Kohlasch leading the returnees as graduation takes Donnelly, Schenck, Lozon, Limanek, Bayer-Pacht and Kathleen Leach.
Big Second Half Key to Hawks Semifinal Win
Down by eight points midway through the third quarter, CVU fired up and hit hopeful Essex High with a shocking 21-point splurge, carrying it to a 57-42 victory in last Wednesday’s semifinal at UVM.
Rice earned its way to the championship test with a 51-33 triumph over Colchester High as Derda poured in 23 points and Akinpetide added 10.
CVU’s game-winning run came after Otley called a time out with 4:05 left in the quarter to discuss the Redhawks’ eight-point deficit situation with game time growing short. “We took the gloves off,” the coach said later.
The Hawks, with Bayer-Pacht, Lozon, Kinneston and Kohlasch pressing all over the court and forcing the Hornets into turnovers (16 for the game), outscored Essex 37-20 in the second half and 21-10 in the final period.
CVU’s leading scorer was Lozon with 17 points. The 5-1 senior was a first quarter zone zapper, hitting two long distance treys to discourage an Essex zone defense. For the game she went four-of-six from international waters.
Bayer-Pacht had 13 points, four assists and five rebounds. Kinneston snapped home 12 points while producing four assists, four rebounds and four steals. Kohlasch had nine points and Donnelly held forth on the boards with 13 rebounds.
CVU’s defense held Essex to 29 percent (15-52) shooting while the Hawks filled the baskets at a 39 percent (22-56) clip. Williston’s Kari Lavalette, a 20-point average sniper in leading Essex through the post season, was held to two points.
Rice 46, CUV 41 (March 17)
Rice Memorial High (19-5)
Akinpetide, 3 5-10 11; Chicoine, 2 2-4 6; Derda, 6 2-4 14; Barron, 2 4-4 9; Boucher, 0 6-10 6; Kowalski, 0 0-0 0; Bunch, 0 0-0 0; Snell, 0 0-0 0; Bolger, 0 0-0 0.
Totals: 13 19-32 46
Lozon, 0 0-0 0; Bayer-Pacht, 1 0-0 2; Donnelly, 3 1-2 7; Kohlasch, 0 2-2 2; Kinneston, 4 2-4 10; Schenck, 5 1-2 13; Limanek, 2 3-5 7; Krupp, 0 0-0 0; Lougee, 0 0-0 0; leach, 0 0-0 0.
Totals; 15 9-15 41
Rice 3 8 11 24 – 46
CVU 9 10 10 12 – 41