Rice defense freezes CVU

Feb. 26, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Hotter than a desert heat wave and averaging better than 78 points in their previous three games — all wins — the Champlain Valley Union High boys basketball team rolled into a Division 1 quarterfinal contest Saturday at Rice Memorial and got cooled down by an unrelenting, man-to-man defense.


    Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Chris Beaton (center), a Champlain Valley Union High junior, weaves through North Country Union’s defense during last Wednesday’s playoff game. The Redhawks wiped out North Country 91-49, but fell to Rice Memorial in the next round.

For the third straight year, the Green Knights knocked the Redhawks out of the playoffs. This time, the 59-46 victory put 20-2 Rice on track for an appearance Tuesday in the Division 1 semifinals against Rutland High at the University of Vermont’s Roy L. Patrick Gymnasium.

CVU finished with a 13-9 record and a positive final month.

Prior to Rice, coach Scott Bliss’ squad had three straight games of better than 50 percent shooting from the floor, highlighted by a lights out, roof-raising 91-49 home playoff triumph over North Country Union in which the team shot 60 percent, including an incredible 15 pops in 18 tries from beyond the arc.

That output gave Rice coach Paul Pecor some anxious moments as he planned for the quarterfinal match.

“I told our guys that they would have to guard their men outside, way outside,” said Pecor after the victory over CVU. “We didn’t want to face them (CVU) right away. They are a good team that can put up points in a hurry.”

Bliss had been concerned about the Rice defense and rightfully so.

“They (Rice) are a good team and have the best defense in the division,” Bliss said. “We had been putting up more than 70 points in our last three games and I was worried about getting as many as 40 against Rice.”

The Redhawks got 46, but they all came hard — as in 13-for-46 shooting. The Knights never trailed, but also never got out to where Pecor could feel comfortable, the coach no doubt remembering CVU’s ability to heat up from downtown and score in flurries.

Rice led 30-21 at the break and extended the lead to 47-31 before John Donnelly and Will Hurd (eight points off the bench) knocked down consecutive treys to take some of the air out of Hammond Gymnasium and pull the Hawks within 10 points with about 4:30 left.

But Rice then got to the foul line and ran off eight straight points to regain its edge.

“They are a good team,” sophomore starter Jake Donnelly said of Rice. “I was able to get to the basket a couple of times early, but then they collapsed back on defense and prevented it.”

Donnelly garnered 12 points, including a pair of threebies.

Old reliable senior John Donnelly bagged 20 points in the face of the furious Knights’ defense and hauled in 12 rebounds to lead scorers and board men.

Intent on stopping Rice’s 6-foot-6 Nick Meunier inside and smooth Jon Goldberg and Marcus Dutkiewicz outside, Bliss had his CVU defenders back off 6-foot-2 forward David Gagne, who had not hurt CVU badly in two previous games (Rice wins).

This time Gagne hit the open shots, hitting three from the right side in the first quarter en route to a 17-point day.

“We put it out for him to be the one to beat us, and he did,” said Bliss.

Goldberg was held to four points while Meunier got 18, eight in the final period.

Sharpshooting lifts Redhawks over North Country

In making their way to the quarterfinals, the Redhawks had a brush with murky Vermont high school hoop history in trouncing North Country and leaving the visitors shaking their heads at a rarely seen exhibition of superior marksmanship.

In crunching the Falcons for the second time in less than a week, CVU got 24 points from Ryan “Intercontinental” Poirier, 19 by Jake Donnelly, 16 from John Donnelly and 26 from the improving bench.

Poirier, who missed his first three-point shot and said he was off during warm-ups, then swished seven of his next nine tries from international waters. To round out the evening, Poirier also contributed five rebounds and three assists.

Jake Donnelly (4-for-4), John Donnelly (2-for-2), Chris Nigh (1-for-1) and Hurd (1-for-1) also cashed in from outer space.

The starters went a blistering 22-for-32 from the floor, while the reserves were only slightly cooler, a still notable 9-for-18.


Opening round

North Country Union (49)

Ingram 3-5 4-6 13, Pinard 6-14 1-3 13, Patten 2-3 0-0 4, Grondin 1-1 0-0 2, Batista 0-7 4-4 4, Royer 1-2 2-5 4, Medley 1-3 0-0 3, Kennison 1-7 0-0 2, Warner 1-3 0-0 2, Miller 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-47 11-18 49.

CVU (91)

Jesset 2-3 0-1 4, Ja. Donnelly 6-10 3-5 19, Jo. Donnelly 6-7 2-2 16, Poirier 7-10 3-3 24, Duke 1-2 0-0 2, Beaton 3-3 3-4 9, Nigh 1-3 0-0 3, Hurd 1-2 2-2 5, Gale 1-1 0-0 2, Rensch 1-3 1-2 3, Lambert 0-2 0-0 0, Leckerling 0-0 0-0 0, Clayton 2-3 0-0 4, Lambert 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 31-51 14-19 91.

NCU    8    14    19    8 – 49

CVU    22    20    31    18 – 91


CVU (46)

Jesset 0 0-2 0, Ja. Donnelly 4 2-3 12, Jo. Donnelly 5 7-9 20, Poirier 2 0-0 6, Nigh 0 0-0 0, Gale 0 0-0 0, Hurd 2 2-2 8, Beaton 0 0-0 0, Lambert 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 11-16 46.

Rice (59)

Goldberg 2 0-0 4, McCormick 4 0-5 8, Meunier 7 4-7 18, Gagne 5 7-8 17, Dutkiewicz 4 2-4 12, Hayes 0 0-0 0, Lovering 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 13-24 59.

CVU    8    13    6    19 – 46

Rice    17    13    10    19 – 59