By Mal Boright
With the Division 1 top playoff seed pretty much in their possession, the 19-0 two-time defending champion Champlain Valley Union High girls’ basketball team will try to put the lid on its third straight undefeated season Friday night when it plays host to 5-14 St. Johnsbury Academy (6:30 p.m.).
And while CVU owns a Jan. 23 victory over the Hilltoppers in St. Jay, the visitors can be tough. On Tuesday night they gave 13-6 Rice some tense minutes before the Green Knights pulled out a 41-37 victory at the Toppers’ home court.
While that was going on in the Northeast Kingdom, CVU eased past Burlington High and its huge front line, 54-32 for its 66th consecutive triumph. The loss dropped the Seahorses to 8-11.
Where Burlington gave the Redhawks a ruffling of the feathers at BHS last month before CVU emerged with a 48-39 win, the Tuesday game was one-sided from the outset as the Hawks scored the first 14 points before the Seahorses got on the board with Ajla Medic’s two charity tosses with under two minutes left in the opening quarter.
CVU junior center Laurel Jaunich got the first seven points on lay ups (assists Sadie Otley and Caitlin Grasso) and a rebound return plus accompanying free throw.
After that, Jaunich’s junior frontcourt mate Annabella Pugliese took over and how. The first year varsity performer bagged seven of 10 shots from the floor including a pair of treys from international waters in a game-high 18 points.
But wait, as they say in television commercials. There is more.
Pugliese also collected a haul of eight rebounds while dealing with the lanky BHS forwards. And she handed off for three assists, stole four roundballs from the Blue Clads, and to maintain order, blocked five shots.
Thanks to Pugliese, sophomore Abby Thut (four rebounds) Jaunich and Madison Randall (three each), CVU held a 23-21 advantage on the glass despite the taller BHS front.
A significant difference was in shots at the wicket, where CVU held a 54-31 edge, hitting 21, a 39 percent clip. BHS nailed 41 percent of its shots, but was reduced in attempts by 24 turnovers that came from the always bustling and larceny-minded Redhawk defense.
Up by 31-11 at halftime, CVU opened as much as a 27-point lead early in the final reel before settling for the final 22-point advantage.
Medic led Burlington with 11 points but was held without any long bombs from out deep, where she is always a threat.
Twelve player got playing time for the Redhawks and nine scored while eight had assists and rebounds.
Last Friday night, CVU sent Mount Anthony’s northern invasion from Bennington back to the southland with a 57-43 defeat in tow.
Otley poured in 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds from her shooting guard position while Pugliese had 12 points and six rebounds and Jaunich scored 11 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists. Grasso passed off for four helpers and got in on the board work with three rebounds.
CVU led all the way, getting up by 26-14 at halftime and 50-29 midway through the closing segment before the running Patriots tightened matters a bit in the late stages.
Coach Kathy Kohlasch’s jayvees scored victories in both contests, including a 40-22 rapping of the little lady Seahorses.
Next up for coach Ute Otley’s varsity: the Division 1 playoffs with pairing coming out Monday from the Vermont Principals’ Association.