Boys hoops team positioning for playoffs2/12/09

Two games remain in regular season

Feb. 12, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With just three days left in the regular season, the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team has two opportunities remaining to lift its postseason playoff seeding.

Coach Scott Bliss and the 10-8 Redhawks head for Essex High on Thursday to tangle with the 13-6 Hornets at 7:30 p.m. Essex bumped CVU 53-40 Jan. 10 at Bremner Gymnasium.

In a Saturday contest at home, the Redhawks will entertain North Country Union High in a 12:30 p.m. varsity start. The game, originally slated for Jan. 3, was postponed by a snow day.

“Every game is important,” Bliss has said over the past week.

After taking care of business with a 55-45, come-from-behind victory at Mount Mansfield Union High last Thursday, CVU tried to crash into the penthouse of 2009 Vermont boys basketball Monday, when 18-0 and Division 1 top seed-to-be Burlington High bused into Hinesburg in search of its 43rd straight victory.

The Redhawks did get into the living room for a while, but were denied a place at the highly regarded table when the Seahorses, starting late in the third period, put together a 17-0 run for a 50-29 triumph.

While they never led, the Redhawks hung around. After two first period ties (7-7 and 9-9), Burlington led for the remainder of the game. CVU, however, pulled off a 7-0 run of its own in the third period, getting to within 33-26 with 1:01 left in the quarter on a three-pointer by junior reserve Chris Nigh.

But after that rush, the CVU shooting drew only icicles. The Redhawks went ouch-for-10 from the floor and did not score again until junior Andrew Leckerling hit a free throw in the closing minutes.

By that time, the Seahorses — led by 6-foot-4 Joe O’Shea with 15 points, 6-foot-7 center Clancy Rugg with 13 points and 10 rebounds, and 6-foot-2 Kevin Cherry with 11 points — had control and the reserves on the floor.

Bliss had his team in a deliberate offense and a hard-working man-to-man defense that limited fast and quick Burlington to just two three-pointers over the first 3.5 quarters. BHS had eight treys in knocking off North Country last Thursday.

CVU was led by John Donnelly, who notched four of his first five shots to put up 10 points, all in the first half. Jack Jesset was held to four points, but had three assists and three rebounds against the big BHS front line.

Robert Russ had six points for the Hawks.

Redhawks mount comeback vs. Cougars

In Jericho, CVU found itself trailing an inspired 3-14 Mount Mansfield team 17-3 late in the first quarter in a Cougars’ den where victories have historically been hard to come by.

The starting five of Jesset, Jake and John Donnelly, Ryan Poirier and Russ, after being lifted by Bliss, returned to the fray and immediately rolled to a 23-3 bender and 26-23 edge at halftime.

CVU extended the margin to 45-29 early in the fourth quarter before Mount Mansfield rallied to close to within the final 10-point margin.

Jesset had a production night with 11 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, six steals and two blocked shots, a virtual general store of hoop goodies.

John Donnelly knocked down seven of 13 shots for 20 points to go with four rebounds. Jake Donnelly had six points and six grabs off the boards, while Poirer popped in 11 points, including two long-range threes in the fourth quarter that scuttled the Cougars’ comeback hopes.

The youthful Mount Mansfield team was led by freshman Tom Lacy with 11 points. Conor Leland, who lit up Bremner Gymnasium for 20 points two weeks ago, was ill and played sparingly, getting seven tallies.

Coach Seth Emerson’s junior varsity bowed 60-40 to a hot-shooting Burlington team after scoring a 56-40 victory at Mount Mansfield.


Burlington (50)

Cherry 5 0-0 11, Hale 1 4-4 6, Rugg 5 2-2 13, Norris 1 0-0 2, O’Shea 5 5-6 15, Alexander 0 0-0 0, Mitchell 0 0-0 0, Grady 1 0-0 3, Davis 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 11-12 50.

CVU (29)

Jesset 2 0-0 4, Ja. Donnelly 1 0-0 3, Jo. Donnelly 4 1-1 10, Poirier 0 0-0 0, Russ 3 0-0 6, Beaton 1 0-0 2, Duke 0 0-0 0, Nigh 1 0-0 3, Hurd 0 0-0 0, Gale 0 0-0 0, Leckerling 0 1-2 1, Rensch 0 0-0 0, Lambert 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 2-3 29.

BHS    13    11    11    15 – 50

CVU     9    8    9    3 – 29