By Mal Boright
It was an ugh(!) kind of night Tuesday for the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team.
The ugh was in the form of a final moments 47-46 loss to 10-4 Essex High, the winning point the result of a free throw by Essex’s Cody Greene, his lone counter of the game, with 2.9 seconds left in regulation.
Now the Redhawks must regroup and take their 6-9 record to 14-1 Burlington High, one of the Division 1 elites, but a combine to which they gave serious heartburn at Hinesburg in late December before bowing 50-45.
The next home game will be Tuesday against an improved Spaulding High five.
The Essex loss was a heavy load for the Redhawks, but a comeback to remember for the Hornets, who had rapped CVU 64-52 in the season-opener in Essex, thanks in large part to a 30-16 advantage on the boards.
The glass was much less a factor Tuesday, just 23-21 in Essex’s favor. And for most of the night, the contest was in the Redhawks’ favor by as much as three to nine points, as their bristling defenses kept the Hornets from getting into any kind of offensive rhythm.
CVU grabbed the lead in the closing minutes of the first quarter and never gave it up until the closing moments. When the Hawks’ Josh Bliss sank a bucket (pass from Chris Reiss) with just over three minutes left, CVU was up 46-37 and looking good.
But it was the final snapping of the cords this night for CVU.
Essex then ran off the next 10 points, helped in part by Red and White turnovers. A particularly big play occurred with 1:16 remaining, when the Hornets’ Nathan Miles intercepted an outside CVU pass and scampered down court for a layup on which he was fouled. Miles swished the free toss and the game was tied at 46.
CVU then missed an inside shot and Essex rebounded with 33 seconds left.
Enter starting guard Greene. He nailed the second of two charity tosses, CVU missed a last ditch long bomb try at the buzzer and the thriller was over.
Big 6-6 Eli DiGrande again paced the Hornets with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The lanky lad had 21 points and 11 boards in the first go-round. Essex also got a valuable 19 points from its reserves, led by junior Elliot Boutin with eight on 4-4 shooting.
CVU had three players in double figures. They were Walker Storey with 13, along with Chris Reiss and Bliss with 11 apiece. Drew Fisher paced the board crew with seven grabs.
Senior co-captain Richard Baccei was the point guard starter in place of the injured Jed Morris and tossed in five points while passing off for at least three assists. He blocked one shot.
Morris has a wrist injury and said more would be known about his future availability following an MRI Wednesday.
Last Friday, CVU got popped 62-37 by 14-1 Rice Memorial as 6-6 junior Kendrick Gray skied for 22 points and long range zapper Ben Shungu, also a junior, hit for 20 points including four treys.
Rice broke out to a comfortable lead with a 19-10 second period, raining five three-point explosions on the Redhawks, The Knights led 33-19 at the half.
Coach Seth Emerson’s junior varsity won that opener, 44-26.