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Woodstock Boys Cashing In

Woodstock — Wherever he may go, whatever he may do, Bradley Lewis will probably never forget the story of the bent nickel.

Woodstock Union High School boys basketball coach Jeff Thomas uses the analogy of the folded five-cent piece to ensure his Wasps understand the concept of teamwork. Put a bent nickel near the top of a stack of coins and the stack might stay intact; put it closer to the base and the whole shmear topples.

“Freshman year, and I couldn’t figure out what this guy was talking about,” the now-senior Lewis confessed after the Wasps’ 63-31 dismissal of Proctor on Tuesday night at Dailey Gym. “I thought he was crazy.”

Now, at 13-6 and with a top-four seed in next week’s Vermont Division II tournament all but certain, Lewis understands.

“I think it’s a great expression,” he said. “I laugh every time I hear it. It’s still funny. I don’t know how he ever came up with it.”

After a sluggish first half, Woodstock finally found its running game and ran the Phantoms (7-11) out of the building. The hosts scored the first 14 points out of halftime and 21 of the 23 posted in the third period as every Wasp played and all but one scored.

Thomas adopted the bent nickel parable at a coaching clinic. It’s now a standard speech, complete with visual aids: “That was with a vise, and that’s hard to do,” Thomas admitted. “The problem is sometimes with a vise, it’s hard to get a perfect bent nickel.”

Still, Woodstock has taken the money lesson to the bank. Having not made it out of the D-II playdowns in a decade, including an overtime loss at home to Fair Haven last year, the Wasps have higher hopes in what has been an unpredictable D-II season.

“We still have the same mindset; we like to get up and down the court,” senior guard Dougie Avellino admitted. “Not a lot changed, but we definitely have a lot of young kids coming up.

“I knew we’d have a good team coming out, but if you look at the whole division, it’s kind of been back and forth, back and forth. There’s a lot of good teams, and everyone’s beating each other.”

It took a half for Woodstock to cash in on D-IV Proctor. The Phantoms found success in their 2-3 zone defense, and the Wasps seemed content — for the first half, at least — to play to the visitors’ pace. Woodstock never trailed, but it still required a 9-3 burst to close the second quarter just to gain a 24-16 halftime advantage.

“Our game plan coming out of halftime was to really push the ball, move off the ball,” said Avellino, who finished with 11 points for the Wasps. “They were standing back in their zone, so we developed some plays to get the ball moving, set picks, move off those picks.”

When it mattered, Woodstock was money.

Swingman Connor Fegard (team-high 17 points) sank a putback, an Avellino-fed bunny and a 3-pointer from the left corner in the first 90 seconds after the break to give Woodstock some distance. Dylan McDonough buried a perimeter jumper, and Avellino went coast-to-coast for a layup and swished a Fegard-assisted triple for a 38-16 cushion.

Proctor’s Cody Landon (team-high 14 points) broke the streak, but the Wasps kept withdrawing from their account. McDonough (3-pointer), twin Hunter McDonough (pull-up 12-footer) and Lewis (layup) capped a 21-2 third period, guaranteeing everyone on Thomas’ roster would see the floor in the fourth quarter.

“We talked about team chemistry and how important that is,” Thomas said. “Our team’s funny in its makeup: There’s two seniors, (four) juniors and (six) sophomores. You saw the sophomores play at the end there; they’re pretty talented.”

For the moment, the last thing the Wasps want to do is cause embarrassment to a coin bearing Thomas Jefferson’s likeness. In a division where the top tournament seed will have at least four losses, Woodstock sees an opportunity and doesn’t want to waste it.

“We always start off a little slow, then we just kick it into gear,” said Lewis, who added 10 points to the cause. “It’s like driving a standard. We start off slow, get going and keep going. Once we get in motion, we just don’t stop.”

That said, Thomas might have a new monetary analogy to use on the Wasps now.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

Free Throws: Although they could play as many as two postseason games at home, the Wasps used Tuesday night to recognize Avellino and Lewis, their two seniors. “I’m glad I played with these kids,” said Lewis, a co-captain and second-year varsity swingman. “I hope we have another game here, and I’m just looking to shoot a 3-pointer because I haven’t made one on home court yet.” … Avellino, on his senior moment: “It’s a pretty emotional night, but it’s pretty exciting, too. You get to celebrate four years with all these great fans and people. It’s definitely emotional, it’s definitely sad, but I’m really lucky to have been playing here for four years.” … Woodstock also recognized Proctor’s five seniors, gifting each with a sports drink at the introduction. … The Wasps visit Otter Valley to close the season on Friday night. A win would give Woodstock the Marble Valley League’s C Division championship.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.