By Mal Boright
Standing 17-0 and at the top of Division 1 girls basketball playoff rankings following a 54-38 triumph over visiting North Country Union at Bremner Gymnasium Tuesday night, coach Ute Otley and her youthful Champlain Valley Union High Redhawks were poised for two serious challenges in the immediate evenings ahead.
First up on Friday night, a visit from a strong 13-4 Essex High combine hoping for payback for CVU’s 45-39 victory at the Hornets’ nest in late January. Essex pounded visiting St. Johnsbury Academy 57-31 Tuesday as former Willistonian Kari Lavalette notched her 1,000th career point.
Then comes Tuesday and a trip to Rice Memorial High. The Redhawks handed the 16-1 defending champion Green Knights their lone loss 48-44 at CVU on Feb. 1. On Tuesday, Rice rumbled past Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans, 60-35.
“These games are gigantic,” Otley said.
The triumph over the visiting 6-11 Falcons on Tuesday contained the usual Redhawk trademarks: gritty turnover-producing defense, finding open shooters, balanced scoring and the entire roster participating in meaningful ways.
After falling behind 7-3 in the first quarter, CVU used an 11-0 spurt to close out the period and fuel a 21-9 second reel onslaught that piled up a 35-14 advantage by intermission. Eight Redhawks scored and four notched assists in that productive half.
The aggressive, trapping defense produced nine NCU turnovers in the second period alone, allowing the Hawks to outdo the Falcons in shot attempts 17-10.
By games’ end, CVU had 53 shots (20 connects) to 41 (16 made) for North Country.
Emily Kinneston had another of her zesty all-around games with 12 points, five steals, four rebounds and at least one assist. Also in double figures scoring-wise were freshmen Sadie Otley and Laurel Jaunich, with 10 points each. Otley went all Intercontinental with a trio of treys.
Senior Taylor Goldsborough led the rebounding crew with six grabs in about 16 minutes of action. She also had two assists on nifty inside-out set-up passes.
CVU’s leading helper was guard Kaelyn Kohlasch, with four assists to go with five points and a pair of steals.
Last Friday night, the Hawks squeezed past a rambunctious and hefty 11-6 Burlington High five, 48-42 at a fired-up Hinesburg nest.
Kinneston was immense with 22 points, six rebounds and five thefts while Jaunich and Amanda Beatty each had four rebounds in difficult inside work against the physical Seahorses.
In the backcourt, Kohlash notched five assists and three steals. Senior Elspeth Grasso had a solid fourth quarter while ringing up three assists for the night.
CVU has three games remaining in the regular season before heading into the playoffs. Friday night’s game against Essex is set for 6:30 p.m. at CVU.