Jan. 15, 2009
By Mal Boright
After a much-needed road victory on Monday night at Colchester High, the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team will return to its own Bremner Gymnasium Thursday night — Spaulding High of Barre (6-5 as of Monday) is coming in to exchange hoops at 7 p.m.
Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Champlain Valley Union High sophomore Kevin Lambert lets go of a shot during Saturday’s game against Essex High.
CVU will then be idle until Jan. 23, when Mount Mansfield Union High rolls into town at the end of exam week.
A 52-45 win over 4-8 Colchester completed an NBA-like three games in six days, in which the 6-5 charges of coach Scott Bliss won two. A home 51-35 triumph over St. Johnsbury Academy opened the string last Thursday. But on Saturday afternoon an up-and-down, 7-4 Essex High combine had an up day and issued a 53-40 bump to the Redhawks in their nest.
No doubt still smarting from the Essex loss, CVU trailed underdog Colchester by a point at halftime Monday, but turned up the offense in the third quarter for a decisive, 21-11 run.
Chief point popper was senior Ryan Poirier with 16, while John Donnelly notched 12.
Donnelly had a big day in the Essex tilt, scoring 21 points and hauling down 12 rebounds. But overall, a tight Essex defense and some inconsistent shooting (16 for 51) proved fatal to the Redhawks’ hopes.
Essex hit 18 of 43 shots and survived a CVU dude-to-dude defense that produced 23 turnovers. Top Hornet was smooth inside-outside operator Demir Smajovic, with 19 points and 10 rebounds, including six of eight hits from the charity stripe in the final quarter.
Sophomore guard Ben Ferris and senior forward Aaron Taylor notched 15 and 10 tallies for Essex.
Essex never trailed after a 10-point second quarter run turned a 16-14 CVU lead into a 24-16 deficit.
After a Donnelly layup off a Poirier pass got the Redhawks within 31-25 to start the third period, the Redhawks went chilly, missing their next nine shots and a great opportunity as Essex also cooled off, adding just five points during the CVU freeze out.
Two Jack Jesset free flips at the 58 second mark plus a rebound shot by Poirier moments later got CVU back to within 36-30 at the buzzer.
The Redhawks stayed within four to six points until a nine-point Essex run in the middle of the final stanza took the issue off the table.
One of the keys for Essex was a baseline gang up on Jesset (7 points, 6 rebounds), whose power drives to the hoop were a significant weapon in the victory over St. Johnsbury.
The CVU forward had a blockbuster night against the Hilltoppers, scoring 15 points, pulling down 11 boards and grabbing four steals while passing off three assists.
John Donnelly hit five of eight shots in the first quarter and two-for-two from the line for 12 points as the Redhawks zoomed to a 16-8 lead by the end of the reel and never looked back. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Jake Donnelly notched 10 points, including a pair of treys.
Coach Seth Emerson’s rocking and rolling jayvees ran their winning streak to six with wins over St. Johnsbury (45-35) and Essex (44-21), plus a victory at Colchester. The juniors are 9-2 for the campaign.