By Mal Boright
A rugged Burlington High team will occupy a lot of space under baskets on both ends of the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium Thursday night, when the 21-0, top-seeded Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team goes after the first of two wins it needs for the Division 1 crown. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Redhawks are at the semifinal level for the third straight year, following the first undefeated regular season in the school’s annals.
“I love playing at Patrick,” said junior guard-forward Emily Kinneston Friday night after the Redhawks dispatched Bellows Free Academy 52-28 in a quarterfinal contest at CVU’s Bremner Gymnasium.
Kinneston is an old hand at the UVM hoop palace, having seen action at Patrick the last two seasons as the Hawks earned their way into championship games only to get nudged by Rice Memorial High on both occasions.
Rice, 20-2, has the second seed and will tangle with third-seeded 17-5 Essex High in the other semifinal, starting after CVU and BHS complete their business.
Burlington, the fifth seed, is 15-7 after knocking out 7-15 Mount Anthony Union High of Bennington 54-33 Saturday at the Seahorses’ corral.
Historically, CVU is 12-4 in semifinals and 3-9 in championship games. Burlington is 2-7 in semis and 2-0 in crowning battles. The two teams last met in playdowns in 2003, a 35-33 Hawks’ victory.
Even though the Redhawks won both regular season games against BHS, the Blue and White posed problems on the boards and the contests were not decided until late in the closing quarters.
The first game at Burlington in January was won 49-47, when CVU freshman inside operator Laurel Jaunich sank a seven-footer from the baseline after taking a pass from Kinneston as the clock was running down. The ball dropped through the net as the final buzzer sounded.
Burlington had a 29-22 advantage on the boards, which was key as the Seahorses fought back from the five-point fourth quarter deficit to force the final moments.
The Redhawks scored a 48-42 victory over BHS last month in Hinesburg.
Ilona Maher (17 points in Saturday’s quarterfinal victory), Ajla Medic and Breanna Pidgeon have been leading point poppers lately for Burlington.
In cranking up Friday’s victory over BFA, its third of the campaign, the youthful CVU quintet, plus a solid bench, shrugged off an early 6-0 Comets lead, during which the Hawks missed their first six shots.
Kinneston nailed a pair of charity shots with four minutes and 54 seconds left in the quarter to put CVU on the board. Junior Kaelyn Kohlasch, among those coming into the game in one of coach Ute Otley’s shift changes, snapped in a trey and followed with a deuce and the Redhawks were on the wing.
CVU led 15-8 by the end of the quarter and 25-12 by halftime. The Hawks added a 21-point assault on seven-for-15 shooting in the third period to leave BFA out of contention.
The Redhawks T-Rex defense forced 21 BFA turnovers, with Kinneston the bakery’s top chef with six steals to go with her 14 points. Kohlasch led scorers with 16 points and chipped in five rebounds plus a pair of assists.
Amanda Lougee wiped up eight grabs off the glass, Taylor Goldsborough with six and Jaunich with five helped the Hawks to a 34-18 rebounding triumph.
Forward Leilani King led BFA with 10 points. CVU shot 34 percent from the floor, despite going just two-for-13 in the final reel. The Comets were at 31 percent.