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Jacks Are Barre-Bound

  • Erin Rockwood, of Windsor, Vt., cheers while holding a sign of her daughter, Olivia Rockwood, during the Oxbow High School at Windsor girls basketball quarterfinal playoff game at Windsor High School in Windsor on March 3, 2018. The Yellowjackets defeated the Olympians, 54-38.(Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Students cheer after a play made by Windsor High School during the Oxbow High School at Windsor girls basketball quarterfinal playoff game at Windsor High School in Windsor, Vt., on March 3, 2018. The Yellowjackets defeated the Olympians, 54-38.(Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Barry Emerson, head coach for Oxbow High School, yells while watching a play during the Oxbow at Windsor girls basketball quarterfinal playoff game at Windsor High School in Windsor, Vt., on March 3, 2018. The Yellowjackets defeated the Olympians, 54-38.(Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Spectators watch the Oxbow High School at Windsor girls basketball quarterfinal playoff game at Windsor High School in Windsor, Vt., on March 3, 2018. The Yellowjackets defeated the Olympians, 54-38.(Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, March 03, 2018

Windsor — Students and fans in Windsor High’s gymnasium began chanting “We’re going to Barre” with less than a minute to go in Saturday afternoon’s VPA Division III girls basketball quarterfinal game against No. 11 Oxbow, even though Windsor’s first-half performance had already made that abundantly clear.

The third-seeded Yellowjackets built an insurmountable lead by halftime and never looked back in an eventual 54-38 victory, sending Windsor (16-6) to the Barre Auditorium for the second consecutive winter.

This time around, Windsor enters the division’s final four with a new sense of determination. It fell to Thetford, 53-52, in last year’s D-III title game, with freshman scorer Olivia Rockwood putting up a career-high 30 in the loss. Rockwood, a sophomore who is averaging more than 20 points per game this season, and junior co-captain Brooke McKeen both said the hurt of last year’s defeat feels raw.

They hope another trip to Barre means taking care of unfinished business.

“Last year still stings,” McKeen said. “It was really tough. But we felt that in the beginning of the year. Every day, we talk about what the goal is. We want a banner on one of these walls. We’re really focused. We’re really determined to get there this year. We know how awesome it is to be there, but also how hard it can be.”

Added Rockwood: “It definitely does still sting. Even if we don’t play Thetford or if we do, just going back and being able to get the same opportunities is amazing. … It definitely feels different for me. I’m going back (to Barre) hungrier than I was last year.”

The Yellowjackets, who have won 13 of their last 14 games since Jan. 19, will play No. 7 Peoples in Thursday’s D-III semifinal at 8:15 p.m. The Wolves (13-9) upset No. 2 BFA Fairfax, 47-44, on Friday night. The two teams have not met yet this winter.

Windsor pulled away early in the first quarter with a 17-0 run over five minutes off seven turnovers and three 3-pointers against the Olympians, who had upset No. 6 Rivendell, 39-36, on Wednesday in the tournament’s first round. The Yellowjackets took a 19-2 lead into the second, and extended the lead to 29-8 by halftime.

“I thought we got off to a great start in the first period,” Windsor head coach Bruce Mackay said. “Our defense was solid, we made some good decision making in the offensive end.”

Added Rockwood: “I thought we came out really strong. We came out with a lot of energy, good energy.”

Rockwood accounted for 14 points in the first half and a game-high 31 points when all was said and done, only one away from her season high.

“You kind of forget, a lot of times we have just freshmen and sophomores out there,” Mackay said. “Sometimes, even though Olivia’s been around — and she’s a real good ball player — we don’t really have that senior leadership, that age that people expect just because they’ve been there. So I think we got caught up in the emotion a little bit. Oxbow never gave up, they got some good shots.”

Oxbow bounced back in the second half, sparked by a resilient performance from junior Kaysea Neil, who scored all 18 of her points after halftime. The O’s cut Windsor’s lead to 15 points early in the third quarter and 14 points midway through the fourth, but had dug themselves into too big of a hole to recover.

“(We) didn’t score, didn’t get into our offense, didn’t get into our rhythm,” Oxbow head coach Barry Emerson said. “It’s pretty hard … You’ve got to say something to those girls. To stick with it, to come back out here and keep playing. It’s a hard thing to do.”

Oxbow finishes its season 8-14 overall. The O’s will lose Bailee Wheeler, Shirley Hayward and Jillian Smith to graduation.

Windsor began its season on turbulent ground, going 3-5 in its first eight games with a young squad made up almost entirely of underclassmen. But Mackay and his team are confident that their group has turned a corner, led by a motivated Rockwood and a talented supporting cast behind her. The Jacks hope it’s enough to give the program its first state title since 2011.

“We have a lot of youth, but we really blend well together. We’re really tight,” McKeen said. “The chemistry on the team, even with our coaches, we just have such a close relationship. We’re able to work well together.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.