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South Royalton Girls Earn Emotional Win

  • South Royalton's Autumn Wing, right, snatches a rebound over Woodstock's Paitra Martin, left, during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    South Royalton's Autumn Wing, right, snatches a rebound over Woodstock's Paitra Martin, left, during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Royalton guard Jaqueline Fulcher, left, dribbles past Woodstock's Amber Barcomb during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    South Royalton guard Jaqueline Fulcher, left, dribbles past Woodstock's Amber Barcomb during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodstock's Natausha Smallwood, right, tries to prevent South Royalton's Summer Spaulding from passing the ball during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Woodstock's Natausha Smallwood, right, tries to prevent South Royalton's Summer Spaulding from passing the ball during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Royalton's Autumn Wing, right, snatches a rebound over Woodstock's Paitra Martin, left, during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • South Royalton guard Jaqueline Fulcher, left, dribbles past Woodstock's Amber Barcomb during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Woodstock's Natausha Smallwood, right, tries to prevent South Royalton's Summer Spaulding from passing the ball during their game in South Royalton, Vt. on December 14, 2013. South Royalton won the game 44-41. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

South Royalton — Prior to yesterday’s girls basketball season opener between Woodstock and South Royalton, attendees recognized Cynthia Fulcher with a moment of silence. During the game, her granddaughter gave Royals fans plenty to cheer about.

Hours after attending memorial services for her grandmother on Saturday, South Royalton senior captain Jacqueline Fulcher had six assists and scored the final two baskets in the Royals’ 44-41 win over the Wasps.

Fulcher also forced a turnover with 11 seconds left to help stall a huge rally by the Wasps, who pulled within one point, 42-41, after trailing by 16 earlier in the second half. Woodstock sophomore Natausha Smallwood’s fourth 3-pointer of the day with four seconds let capped an astonishing 19-4 Woodstock run that had begun late in the third quarter.

The Royals built their largest lead prior to the rally, with Fulcher assisting on four consecutive South Royalton baskets and setting up teammate Alexis Madore’s free throw during a 9-3 Royals run to start the third quarter.

Fulcher’s lengthy ponytail flying, the sprite point guard dished off to freshman teammate Autumn Wing (15 points, five rebounds) twice to start the third quarter, then found Summer Spaulding (11 points) for two more before setting up Madore (11 points) for a pair of free throw attempts.

Finally, Fulcher hit Spaulding for a jump shot as South Royalton stretched a nine-point halftime lead to 16, 38-22, with 2:25 left in the period.

“That’s the kind of player she is, a distributor,” first-year Royals coach Jim Hewitt said. “She had a lot of good looks in the first half, but none of them fell and she got her second foul pretty early in the game and had to come out. So it was good to see her coming out in the second half, distributing the ball they way she did.”

Woodstock, playing its first varsity game since the end of the 2011-12 season, slowly crept back into it. Wasps freshman Madison Schulz had a steal and fast-break layup with 12 seconds left in the third quarter, and Smallwood — who finished with a game-high 16 points — hit a running 3-pointer as time expired in the period to make it 38-27.

The Wasps were far from done, forcing 14 South Royalton turnovers in the fourth quarter, and at one juncture scoring 11 straight points to pull within 40-38, capped by Smallwood’s runner in the lane with 90 seconds left.

That’s when Fulcher caught fire again, first by executing an underhanded layup with 50 seconds to play to give the Royals a two-possession lead, 42-38.

South Royalton gathered the miss on a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity for Woodstock and, after a steal by the Wasps’ Amber Barcomb, Fulcher forced a turnover on the sideline with 11 seconds to play.

The Royals turned it back over, setting up Smallwood’s bank-shot 3 to make it 42-41 with a Woodstock timeout with two seconds to play.

Woodstock never got the chance to foul, as Madore launched an arching outlet pass to Fulcher, who cruised in for a layup to clinch the win as time expired.

“It was a little tough, coming out to play right after the funeral,” said Fulcher, whose grandmother passed away in her sleep Wednesday at age 78. “I was mad at myself at first, because I had two fouls early, so I was happy to be able to contribute.”

It was a back-and-forth game early, as the Royals jumped out to a 7-0 advantage before the Wasps rallied with 3s by Smallwood and Schuyler Benoit (12 points) to give the visitors a 12-9 lead.

South Royalton controlled the second quarter, outscoring Woodstock 19-7 and owning a 9-3 rebounding edge. The Royals scored the final nine points before halftime, including a 3 and a put-back from Wing as well as a pair of free throws from Madore.

“We’re a team of guards, and we’re going to have to win with our speed and athleticism,” Hewitt said. “That’s what we saw in the second quarter, but we got away from the things we do well in the second half. We turned the ball over way too much, even though we weren’t getting pressured very much, and we couldn’t defend the pick-and-roll.”

Woodstock hurt itself by shooting just 3-for-14 from the free-throw line, including 1-for-8 in the fourth quarter.

“We picked up the intensity in the second half, but there are still a lot of things we have to do better,” said Woodstock coach Roger St. Hilaire, who coached the jayvee-only Wasps a year ago. “We played well in spurts, but it’s a disappointing loss for us.”

South Royalton plays at Northfield on Monday; the Wasps continue their four-game road trip to start the season at Randolph on Tuesday.

Free Throws: After the moment of silence, Fulcher and teammate Rachel Moore presented Fulcher’s aunt, Sandra Manouvelos, with flowers at her usual seat near the entrance to the gym. Manouvelos and her sister, Cynthia Fulcher, have traditionally sat in the same spot. ... South Royalton shot 36 percent from the floor (16-of-44), Woodstock 33 percent (16-of-48). ... Moore left the game in the first half with a severe cold and did not return.

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