By Mal Boright
As the 17-0 Champlain Valley Union High girls’ basketball team now knows well, that fat zero in the loss column can also be a target on its collective backs.
The bustling 13-3 Essex High team came to Bremner Gymnasium Tuesday night and looked entirely different from the outfit the Redhawks dispatched 56-34 on Jan. 5 in Essex.
A crowding defense and generally deliberate offense, with few turnovers, had the visitors up 35-31 with just one minute left in regulation before CVU tied it with 29 seconds left and then cruised to a 8-2 advantage in overtime for the victory, CVU’s Division 1 record 64th straight.
Another test comes Friday, when the running and gunning chaos-creating Mount Anthony Union High Patriots roll into Hinesburg (6:30 varsity start) in hopes of getting even for CVU’s 57-49 triumph last Saturday in Bennington.
Tuesday’s game had the Hinesburg House of Hoops in high anxiety with its appropriate noise level as Essex, composed and deliberate and with a loud following, led by four points with the contest’s closing minute at hand.
Guard Caitlin Grasso found Laurel Jaunich briefly open inside for a turn-around shot with 1:03 left, and CVU was within a hoop.
Following a Hornet time out, Essex turned the ball over on a travel call at the 49-second mark.
The Redhawks got the ball to Jaunich, who got fouled in a shot try and then very calmly sank two free flips to knot the score at 35 with 29.3 seconds showing.
A final seconds shot from the corner by the Hornets was blocked by Annabella Pugliese, who then came up huge in the four-minute overtime with two hoops and one of her eight rebounds.
Jaunich had an overtime bucket (16 points, 6 rebounds) and came up with three of her four steals as the CVU defense limited Essex to but one futile shot from the floor. The Hornets scores in OT were Emmalee Smith’s two foul shots for a 37-37 deadlock.
Evidence that this night might be a Hornet stinger party came early when Essex bolted to a 10-0 first period lead. The Redhawks were blanked on zip-for-six shooting until Jaunich hit an inside shot and free throw with 53 seconds left in the quarter.
Trailing 12-5 entering the second period, Grasso scored twice and helped lead CVU to within 19-17 of Essex by halftime. The Redhawks took their first lead at 3;27 in the third quarter on a Sadie Otley layup. After a pair of CVU turnovers, Otley followed with a three-point bopper to put the Hawks up 27-23 and seemingly off and romping.
Not this time. The well balanced Hornets came back to tie the game by the end of the period on shots by reserve forward Kylie Acker and guard Alexis Britch to set up the drama the rest of the way.
Nine players scored for Essex, led by Mychaela Harton with seven points and seven rebounds. On the boards, CVU held a slight 23-21 advantage.
Jaunich got special attention at the offensive end as defenders were draped over her, especially in the first half, when she was held to just three of her nine shots and six points.
The veteran junior agreed with a wag’s comment after the game that she might not be ordering elbow macaroni anytime soon.
Otley finished with 10 points and Pugliese with six and at least two blocked shots.
Last Saturday, the Redhawks ruled the Patriots by 18 points at halftime, only to have the southern Vermont power unload a third period blitz before CVU emerged with the eight-point win.
“They (Mount Anthony) got hot and were nailing threes all over the place,” said CVU coach Ute Otley.
The game was historic, as CVU broke the Division 1 record with its 63rd straight triumph. The record of 62 was held by Essex High in the 1990s under coach Jean Robinson.
Jaunich led with 25 points and nine grabs off the glass. Sadie Otley contributed 16 points and six assists.
The record-tying win came last Thursday in Barre as CVU polished off the Spaulding High Crimson Tide, 67-28, Jaunich firing in 20 points, Sadie Otley getting 15 and Pugliese hauling in 12 rebounds.