By Mal Boright
Is there a new order in Division 1 high school girls basketball?
A partial answer could be coming Friday, when the defending champion Rice Memorial High Green Knights invade Champlain Valley Union High’s Bremner Gymnasium for a 7 p.m. clash, their first since the championship game last March.
With many players back from a year ago, the 10-0 Knights have been rolling once again, although they escaped Essex High recently with a two-point victory.
CVU took care of business at 9-2 Essex Tuesday night with a solid 45-37 victory to hike its season mark to 11-0, setting up the first of two showdowns with Rice.
Coach Ute Otley was pleased with the overall performance from her youthful squad Tuesday and had particular praise for junior do-it-all Emily Kinneston, who lit up the place for 23 points while hauling down nine rebounds and picking off seven steals from the Hornets, contributing to 22 turnovers that plagued the Essex offense.
The Redhawks never trailed after a Kinneston bucket gave them a 2-1 lead in the early going. That opened an eight–point run as the chilled Hornets missed their first eight shots before tall and active veteran junior center Kara Sheftic laid in a rebound shot with two minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Sheftic was a considerable force for Essex with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
But while Sheftic did the job inside, the Hornets struggled from outside with Kari Lavalette’s (eight points) pair of treys the big hitters as the Blue and Gold swished just 14 of 56 shots (25 percent). CVU bagged 17 of 48 for 35 percent.
While CVU maintained a game-long lead, the dangerous Hornets hung around. In the second period, they lapped up Redhawk turnovers and held CVU without a hoop until with 1:42 left, when freshman center Laurel Jaunich (eight points, six rebounds, two assists) laid in a twin bracer for a 16-12 lead.
Jaunich added another lay-in and Kinneston notched a basket and later free throw, so CVU escaped what had been a serious drought for a 21-16 halftime lead.
The Redhawks never let the lead get below three points in the second half, always producing an answer anytime Essex would threaten.
Kinneston, in an evening of remarkable plays, added to the Hornets’ frustrations at the end of the third quarter. With CVU up 35-29 and time running down, the junior had the ball at the top of the key but was closely guarded. She made a spin move, then did a slight step back to clear the shooting hand and let loose with a sweet, soft arching shot that swished through the strings as the quarter buzzer sounded. It gave CVU an eight-point advantage to carry to the final period. The Celtics’ aging Paul Pierce, who made a living getting shots off while closely guarded, would have been jealous.
Significant CVU minutes came from Kaelyn Kohlasch, who had seven points and four assists while hampered by fouls, Taylor Goldsborough with five rebounds and defense, and Amanda Lougee’s six rebounds.
Last Friday night, the Redhawks made it a happy trip to Newport with a 63-22 shelling of North Country Union (4-5). Sadie Otley cranked up the long-range bombs with four treys among her 16 points. Kinneston kept her hands in all facets of the game with six assists, six points and five steals.