Wasps Feel the Sting
Lyndon Pushes Past Woodstock and Into Final
Woodstock's Connor Fegard scores under heavy pressure from Lyndon's Kyle Cipollone during Woodstock vs. Lyndon boys basketball VPA semifinal game at Barre Auditorium in Barre, Vt., on March 5, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock's Alex Crompton looks up for a shot during the first quarter of Woodstock vs. Lyndon boys basketball VPA semifinal game at Barre Auditorium in Barre, Vt., on March 5, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Barre, Vt. — Only UPS boxes things better than Lyndon Institute did at Barre Auditorium on Wednesday night.
Semifinal day became moving day for the Woodstock High boys basketball, with maroon-clad Vikings muscling their counterparts through, across and out of the paint in a key second quarter that decided LI’s 61-43 Vermont Division II victory. The Wasps’ first trip to the Aud in a decade effectively ended in that second period, as Lyndon amassed an 11-3 edge on the glass, limited Woodstock (16-7) to single shots and used a 17-4 burst to gain control.
“We all knew we had to box out, because everyone on that team’s scrappy and they’ll go for that rebound,” Lyndon guard Mason Lantz said. “If we box out, we’re getting the ball, we’re going to the other end and hoping to score.”
A school with more than 100 years of history, yet no Vermont Principals Association boys basketball championships, the Vikings (18-5) meet U-32 in Saturday’s final. Woodstock was making its first visit to the Aud since a loss in the 2002 D-II final to Fair Haven.
Mobile 6-foot-6 center Jay Cobb scored a game-high 20 points for LI. Lantz buried three of Lyndon’s 3-pointers on a 13-point night, fellow guard James Shufelt also hit for 13 points and bouncy senior Axerre Ntabana added nine points at one end of the floor to go with athletic rebounding and defense at the other.
“When you’re 6-6, and you’ve got that X player down low (Ntabana), he can make a difference because he’s so athletic,” Woodstock coach Jeff Thomas said. “We’d seen some film on him and knew he was tough, but until you play him you can’t realize how tough he really is.
“Then you add their outside shooting. You go to defend that, it’s kind of a perfect storm for them.”
Lyndon snatched control of the game quickly out of a 12-11 first-quarter lead.
It began from the perimeter, Shufelt and Lantz sticking threes around a mid-range jumper from Woodstock’s Connor Fegard (team-high 17 points) for an 18-13 advantage. Cobb — quite quick afoot despite his height — netted a layup, and Lantz answered a Fegard wing jumper with another 3-pointer.
A Kyle Cipollone leaner off the glass got LI’s lead to double figures at 25-15 and got Thomas off the bench for a timeout.
“MSJ was one of the bigger teams, Hartford was pretty big, Windsor’s big, but they aren’t quite as physical as that team,” Thomas said of the Vikings.
Cobb closed the charge with two free throws and a give-and-go layup fed by Cipollone. Lyndon carried that momentum to a 31-18 halftime lead, riding a 23-13 first-half edge on the boards to the advantage.
“We just get lower than them,” Lantz said. “We know if we don’t rebound, we aren’t going to win. That’s like our heart there.”
To its credit, Woodstock — facing a 44-24 deficit midway through the third period — made a gallant rally to put the Vikings’ dominance in doubt, if only temporarily.
Shut out in the first half, Woodstock senior guard Dougie Avellino hit for all eight of his points in the third quarter. He followed a Dylan McDonough drive with an 18-foot jumper to ignite a 12-0 run to close the period.
Fegard, solid all night at the offensive end of the floor, closed it with a 3-pointer before drawing a technical foul on Cobb on an attempted steal. Woodstock took maximum advantage of the opportunity as Avellino sank two free throws and McDonough nailed a corner triple to bring the Wasps within eight at 44-36.
“For us to come back in the third quarter like that, I was so proud of our kids,” Thomas said. “We were outsized. We were outskilled. They had some better offensive players and threats than we had, and in the third we still cut it to single digits.”
Cobb and Lantz ended that quickly, combining for all of the points in a 9-1 run to start the fourth that put the game to bed.
“They’re tough kids; they fought through screens,” Thomas said of LI. “They didn’t give us much space, that’s for sure.”
Free Throws: Top-ranked U-32 routed No. 5 Mill River on Monday night, 60-37, to earn its championship game berth. … Lyndon finished with a 38-28 edge on the glass. … The Vikings split two regular-season games with U-32. … Woodstock shared the Marble Valley League’s C Division crown with Otter Valley. … Thomas gets the bulk of his team back next year, led by Fegard (18.8 points per game entering Wednesday night), but loses Avellino (17.4) and forward Bradley Lewis to graduation.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.