Balanced Attack Lifts Thetford Girls Basketball to 3-0
Rivendell Academy’s Megan Winagle reaches for the rebound during the first half of last night’s game against Thetford in Orford. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Rivendell’s Lacey Stever, Thetford’s Ella Chapman and Rivendell’s Stefanie DeSimone grapple for the ball during the first half last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Rivendell guard Hannah Rockwell guards Thetford guard Michaela Pomeroy as she shoots last night. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Orford — There was a time when Shyann Josler wouldn’t have thought twice about trying to take the ball coast-to-coast on her own following a steal on the opponent’s side of the court.
Yet Josler has learned that getting her teammates is involved is twice as fun — and twice as productive for the Thetford Academy girls basketball team.
Josler had a season-high 17 points and, perhaps most importantly, doled out four key assists during the Panthers’ 35-29 win at rival Rivendell last night.
A crafty, speedy point guard who’s committed to the game year-round, Josler honed her passing skills while suiting up for Burlington-based AAU outfit Lone Wolf this spring and summer. The improved repertoire was evident against the Raptors (1-1) as the sophomore dished out to teammates both in transition and in the paint.
Josler, who also had four steals and a block, helped sophomore center Rozzlyn Kidder net a career-high 10 points as Thetford improved to 3-0 despite losing six of its top eight players from last season’s 18-5 Vermont Division III semifinalist.
Junior Ella Chapman had four points and a six rebounds for Thetford, while Rivendell’s Lacey Stever scored 16 with nine boards.
“I worked on (passing) a lot, just because I knew, being the point guard, that teams were going to be keying in on me,” Josler said after the game. “Today was a hard game, it always is against Rivendell, so I knew (teammates) were going to have to get involved.”
After a steal and pass for a fast-break layup to Michaela Pomeroy (two points) in the first half, Josler picked off Rivendell again and immediately lobbed the the ball in stride for a jaunting Kidder, who reached the basket alone to give the Panthers a 15-7 lead, their largest at the time.
It was a play Josler might not have made last year, when her shot selection was questionable at times despite scoring a team-high 10.5 points per game.
“She’s a little older and is making better decisions,” Thetford coach Eric Ward said. “She knows that if she gets the other girls going it’s going to benefit the team, because eventually (opponents are) going to have to make adjustments.”
After Kidder’s free throws made it 17-8 with less than a minute to go in the first half, Stever nabbed a steal and scored on the run to bring the Raptors within seven at the break.
The Panthers began the second half on a 9-3 run, Josler’s underhanded layup pushing the lead to nine before a putback from Elise Jackson made it 26-15 late in the first quarter.
Rivendell wouldn’t go away, as a feed from Stever to Stefanie DeSimone and jump shots from Tao Ameden (five points) and Jennifer DeBois pulled the Raptors within three, 26-23, early in the fourth.
Thetford brought the lead back to nine on a baseline drive from Kidder and a layup from Chapman. The Raptors responded with a 6-2 run, though Stever’s outside jumper to make it 33-29 came with just 55 seconds to play.
Rivendell didn’t foul until there were 24 seconds left, and Josler sank both free throws to ice it.
“I wanted us to play 10 seconds of great defense on that play, and we played 11,” Raptors coach Russ Wilcox chided. “The girls did what they were supposed to do. They always do.”
With Kaitlin Pippin, Lindsey Borst, Brittany Gray and Sarah Roberts all graduating while juniors Abby Welch and Jill Clark left via transfer, the Panthers lost many of the pieces from a team that started 15-2 last year and took eventual D-III champion Oxbow to double overtime in the semifinals.
Yet the Panthers are taller this year, with Chapman, Kidder, Jackson and senior Kaitlin Olsen all hovering around 5-foot-9.
“As much as we lost, there are definitely some positives coming in,” Ward said. “There were times tonight when we were a little soft defensively and the intensity wasn’t where we needed it, but we have a lot to build off.”
That was the sentiment Rivendell’s Wilcox expressed, too. The Raptors bring back only Stever and DeSimone to the starting lineup after graduating stalwarts Autumn Brooks, Amber Brooks and Kathleen McCarty. The Raptors were 16-6 last year, losing in the second round to the Olympians.
“It’s probably going to take until February until we really come into our own,” Wilcox said. “The nice thing is that we have the whole season to improve.”
Free Throws: It was Thetford’s third straight win over the Raptors, who’d won six straight in the series from 2008-11. ... Thetford had 23 rebounds and committed 23 turnovers, while the Raptors had 19 and 21, respectively. ... DiSimone missed Rivendell’s season-opening win over Twin Valley on Friday for a college visit. ... The Panthers are 3-0 for the third time in Ward’s four-year tenure. ... Former Rivendell boys coach Steve Colby assisted Wilcox on the Raptor bench. ... The Raptors are off until Dec. 28 at Oxbow while the Panthers host Rivendell on Friday. The Raptors and Panthers have a rematch in Thetford on Jan. 12.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.