Seahorses looming next for unbeaten CVU girls

Abby Thut keeps her Rice defender at bay. Observer photo by Al Frey
Abby Thut keeps her Rice defender at bay. Observer photo by Al Frey

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent
With a perfecto 10-0 first half of the regular season in the accomplishment folder, the Champlain Valley Union High girls basketball team opens the second half of the campaign with a pair of road contests, the first a short trip to Burlington High Saturday (12:30 p.m.).
Burlington will take a 5-6 record into the fray, having bowed Saturday on the road to Brattleboro Union High, 38-23. Last Thursday the Seahorses clipped North Country Union at BHS, 34-31.
On Tuesday, coach Ute Otley’s Redhawks will motor east for the first meeting of the season with St. Johnsbury Academy (6:30 p.m.).
As CVU’s Bremner Gymnasium emptied Saturday afternoon in the wake of the Redhawks 55-16 romp over defending Division 2 champion Mount Abraham Union, Otley was asked about the upcoming second half of the season.
“We have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” she said. “We have to play BFA (Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans) and Essex again and we have home and away games with Mount Anthony (of Bennington).”
The coach also mentioned two games against Burlington which has annually provided a serious challenge to CVU, especially this past two-and-a-half seasons during which the overall win streak has climbed to 57.
The Birdie Battle with the Eagles was put away early. CVU’s veteran junior forecourt stalwart Laurel Jaunich popped the Hawks’ first seven points with a layup, rebound, jumper and free throw as CVU bolted to a 9-0 lead before Mount Abe was able to nail a hoop.
The lead then jumped to 22-3 as the outside guns blazed over the Eagles’ zone, junior guard Sadie Otley nailing two treys from downtown while Caitlin Grasso added a long three-point bomb.
Both teams substituted freely, with CVU subs contributing 21 points and 13 rebounds. Jaunich led the scorers with 15 points while the energetic, wide ranging Otley had 11 steals, six rebounds and at least three assists to go with her 10 points.
Top point poppers off the pine were sophomore Marlee Gunn with seven tallies and junior Laura Durkee with a pair of treys for six.
Freshman Emma Carter had five points to lead Mount Abe. The CVU defense produced 24 Eagle turnovers, which limited the visitors to just 31 shots. They made six. CVU went 22-for-48 from the hardwood.
The Redhawks also got off to a coffin-nailing start last Thursday in downing Division 1 finals-playmate Rice Memorial, 49-29. The loss, their second to the Redhawks, left the Green Knights at 6-3.
Jaunich and Otley were on fire early, leading CVU to a startling 14-0 edge before Rice, after missing its first eight shots, finally scored on a lay-in by junior reserve Jordan Lawrence with eight seconds remaining in the quarter.
CVU, which nailed seven-of-10 first quarter shots, cooled off in the second period but still carried a 22-4 advantage into the halftime conversation, Rice held to a paltry 2-for-18 from the floor over the initial 16 minutes.
With Jaunich and Otley combining for 15 of CVU’s 18 third period points, the Redhawks rolled into the final reel with a solid 40-15 lead.
Jaunich with 19 points and 12 rebounds led CVU. Otley collected 13 points to go with at least four assists and three steals. Gunn came off the bench to flip in nine points while Lia Gagliuso, also in a reserve role, hauled in four rebounds before leaving with a shoulder injury. She is expected to miss a few games.
Veteran forward Caroline Snell led Rice with six points and four rebounds. Megan Collins had five points.
The jayvees, who had lost 56-21 at Rice a couple of weeks ago, scored a 39-33 victory. They then unloaded a 30-18 triumph over Mount Abraham to lift the season record to 7-2. The Little Redhawks other loss was to North Country Union, which will appear at Bremner Gymnasium Jan. 26.