Redhawks carry four-game win streak into Rice rematch1/29/09

Boys hoops team survives scare vs. MMU

Jan. 29, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

With a long Monday night trip to Newport and North Country Union High behind them, coach Scott Bliss and his Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball combine are looking forward to Thursday night’s home rematch with Rice Memorial High, one of the masters of Vermont’s 2008-09 Division 1 universe.

In late December, the Redhawks gave the 12-2 Green Knights a load of heartburn before bowing 50-47 at Rice. Bliss is hopeful of a better outcome at the Hawks’ cozy nest.

The journey to the Northeast Kingdom was a success, CVU nudging the Falcons, 44-37 behind John Donnelly’s 17 points. The victory, their fourth straight, hiked the Redhawks’ season mark to 8-5.

In their last outing before the homefolks Friday night, the CVU quintet discovered that the cat family, even those members with a 2-11 record coming in, can be fiercely independent and averse to bowing to expected outcomes.

The Mount Mansfield Union High Cougars were the particular cats appearing at Bremner Gymnasium and, despite being down by 12 points late in the fourth quarter, bounced back to within three counters of the Redhawks with just under a minute to go, putting CVU on edge and no doubt adding some gray to Bliss’ head.

It was not until Jake Donnelly made three of four free throws to put the Redhawks up 57-51 in the closing seconds that Red and White nerves could settle down.

Even then, Mount Mansfield nailed a shot at the buzzer to close the final gap to 57-53.

The leader in the Mount Mansfield comeback was swift backcourt junior Conor Leland, whose 20 points for the day included a pair of successive treys that pulled the Cougars from a 54-43 deficit to within 54-49 with just under a minute left. Two free throws by Mike Estes at the 51-second mark made it a tricky three-point game.

Trailing 25-22 at the half after a chilly 3-for-15 shooting performance in the second quarter, in which they were outscored 11-6, the Redhawks turned up the face-to-face defense in the third period and rolled to a 44-33 lead moments into the final reel.

It was the old faithful players leading the CVU charge — John Donnelly bagged seven points, Jake Donnelly six and Jack Jesset with six points, plus three of his six steals as the Redhawks forced the Cougars into 11 turnovers. MMU got off only five shots in the period, hitting but a pair, and was outscored 20-8.

John Donnelly added another seven of his team- high 19 in the fourth quarter, which helped CVU to its apparently secure 12-point edge before the mountain men uncorked their closing blitz.

The Redhawks opened well, in a strong opening stanza, grabbing a 16-14 lead thanks to a trio of threebie pops by Ryan Poirier, a long-range specialist. John Donnelly also cranked up a three and a deuce.

CVU fell on tough times in the second period, as Bliss cleared the bench in an effort to find a hot hand. The Cougars slowly opened as much as a five-point lead before the Redhawks’ Robert Russ nailed a jumper just before halftime to cut the MMU advantage to three at the buzzer.

Mount Mansfield, troubled by 25 turnovers, hit over 50 percent from the field, knocking in 20 of 39 shots.

CVU snapped the cords on 22 of 49 shots, but went just 8-of-17 from the charity stripe.

The Cougars, fueled by their late effort at CVU, racked up a 64-47 win at Colchester High Monday, Leland notching 27 points.

Mount Mansfield (53)

Lacy 2 2-4 6, Estes 1 2-2 4, Suder 1 3-6 5, Leland 8 0-0 20, Lecours 2 0-0 4, Wright 2 0-0 4, Wilcox 3 2-2 8, Bristol 1 0-0 2, Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 9-14 53.

CVU (57)

Jesset 6 0-6 12, Ja. Donnelly 3 4-6 10, Jo. Donnelly 7 3-3 19, Poirier 4 0-0 11, Russ 1 1-2 3, Beaton 1 0-0 2, Bunbury 0 0-0 0, Duke 0 0-0 0, Nigh 0 0-0 0, Rensch 0 0-0 0, Lambert 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 8-17 57.

MMU    14    11    8    20 – 53

CVU    16    6    20    15 – 57