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Canes’ Progress Hits a Roadblock

  • Hartford's Cameron Gaudette charges toward the basket under pressure from Springfield's Tanner Aberle, left, and Justin Gomez during Springfield at Hartford boys basketball in White River Junction, Vt., on February 21, 2014. Springfield won, 38-30. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Hartford's Cameron Gaudette charges toward the basket under pressure from Springfield's Tanner Aberle, left, and Justin Gomez during Springfield at Hartford boys basketball in White River Junction, Vt., on February 21, 2014. Springfield won, 38-30. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford's Branson Landon goes up for a shot against Springfield's Josh Rivers during Springfield at Hartford boys basketball in White River Junction, Vt., on February 21, 2014. Springfield won, 38-30. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Hartford's Branson Landon goes up for a shot against Springfield's Josh Rivers during Springfield at Hartford boys basketball in White River Junction, Vt., on February 21, 2014. Springfield won, 38-30. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford's Cameron Gaudette charges toward the basket under pressure from Springfield's Tanner Aberle, left, and Justin Gomez during Springfield at Hartford boys basketball in White River Junction, Vt., on February 21, 2014. Springfield won, 38-30. (Valley News - Will Parson)
  • Hartford's Branson Landon goes up for a shot against Springfield's Josh Rivers during Springfield at Hartford boys basketball in White River Junction, Vt., on February 21, 2014. Springfield won, 38-30. (Valley News - Will Parson)

White River Junction — Over the last several weeks, the hard work of the Hartford High boys basketball team had begun to produce results. During a 38-30 loss to visiting Springfield on Friday night, the Hurricanes took a step back.

Senior-laden Hartford (6-13) shot just 11-for-37 from the floor and managed just 13 second-half points as the Marble Valley League rival Cosmos spoiled the Canes’ senior night.

Springfield (6-14) scored nearly half of its points in the fourth quarter, when it shot 9-for-11 from the free throw line and outscored Hartford 10-1 over the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds.

The Cosmos never trailed after senior captain Tanner Aberle (12 points) — who had all five of his rebounds in the final period — set up Justin Gomez (13 points) with one of the only fast-break baskets by either team. Gomez drew a foul and completed the 3-point play to make 32-29 with 2:20 remaining.

Dylan Rice hit 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Canes within a basket, but Cam Gaudette missed a 3-pointer and his own follow-up, and Springfield came down with the second rebound to help seal the win.

It was the third win in four games to finish the regular season for the Cosmos, while Hartford lost its second straight after winning four of six. Even a recent one-point loss to No. 5 Mill River had encouraged Hartford coach Steve Landon, who’d pointed to his team’s effort on both ends of the floor for optimism as the VPA Division II playoffs approach.

Landon was left scratching his head after Friday night’s setback. Hartford settled for too many jump shots, made some poor decisions defensively and committed a handful of unforced turnovers.

“We haven’t played that poorly in a long time. We were just really uninspired,” the coach said. “We’ve been playing really hard lately, but it wasn’t there tonight. We didn’t play particularly smart on defense, and on offense we took too many outside shots and none of them were going in.”

Hartford still managed to lead for most of the night.

With Gaudette (12 points) misfiring on his first five perimeter attempts, sophomore center Kyle Perkins helped compensate with a pair of baskets underneath. Josh Phipps hit a layup and Connor Brooks (six points) sank another pair of baskets inside as Hartford held an 11-4 lead early in the second quarter.

With Aberle doing a solid job guarding Gaudette, Springfield’s Jeff Durphy and Gomez hit 3-pointers to pull the Cosmos within 13-10.

Gaudette (15.2 ppg this season) then began to find his groove, driving the lane for two and hitting a jumper from the elbow with 15 seconds left in the first half to make it 17-12 at the break.

The Hurricanes managed just three points on 1-of-10 shooting in the third quarter as the Cosmos rallied to tie the game 20-20. Springfield used a 6-1 run to grab its first lead since early in the first quarter, but Brooks drove for a layup and Gaudette hit a pair of free throws and a floater to give Hartford a 29-28 lead with 3:10 left.

Hartford misfired on several chances to extend its slim advantage, and Springfield did well enough both on the boards and from the free-throw line to pull off the win.

Tenth-year Springfield coach Scott Farr is impressed with the Cosmos’ progress over the last several weeks.

“When you win three of your last four games after (a 3-13 start), that’s reason to get excited,” the former Cosmos player said. “It wasn’t a pretty game, but we played well when it counted, and that’s what you’re looking for, especially this time of year.”

Extra Points: Landon fell to 3-1 against the Cosmos. ... Hartford’s 11 seniors — nine of them active, two injured — were honored at center court with their parents, siblings and relatives prior to tipoff, while the players’ away jerseys were hung over a wire stretched across the bleachers. Springfield’s six seniors were also recognized. ... The Cosmos had 19 turnovers, but just two in the fourth quarter. ... Springfield held a 23-20 rebounding advantage. ... Hartford shot 8-of-13 from the free-throw line. ... Hartford finishes its regular season today at home against cross-river rival Hanover. The Marauders (10-6; 8-6 N.H. D-II) still have four games remaining.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.