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Panthers Use Balance In First-Round Rout

  • Thetford's Kayley Gray reaches for the rebound as Stowe's Ashley Raymond misses during the Stowe at Thetford girls basketball game in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Thetford's Kayley Gray reaches for the rebound as Stowe's Ashley Raymond misses during the Stowe at Thetford girls basketball game in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Thetford's Jillian Clark charges through Stowe's defense to take a shot during the Stowe at Thetford girls basketball in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Thetford's Jillian Clark charges through Stowe's defense to take a shot during the Stowe at Thetford girls basketball in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Thetford's Kayley Gray reaches for the rebound as Stowe's Ashley Raymond misses during the Stowe at Thetford girls basketball game in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Thetford's Jillian Clark charges through Stowe's defense to take a shot during the Stowe at Thetford girls basketball in Thetford, Vt., on Feb. 18. 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Thetford — During its 72-46 win over Stowe in the first round of the VPA Division III playoffs on Tuesday night, the Thetford Academy girls basketball team showed again that it’s the most balanced team in the Upper Valley — and the most dominant.

Three Panthers reached double figures and six had at least a half-dozen as the top-ranked Panthers (19-1) advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals against No. 9 Hazen, a 56-45 winner over No. 8 Winooski in the bracket’s other first-round game.

No. 16 Stowe (5-16) became just the third team all season to score more than 40 points against Thetford, which put together its first single-loss regular season in 21 years while outscoring opponents by an average score of 53.2-27.5, both Upper Valley highs.

Balance and versatility have been keys for the Panthers. While all five starters have recorded at least one double-digit scoring game this year, four are averaging between 6-12 points per game.

Point guard Shyann Josler (12.0 ppg), a member of the 1,000-point club, has been held to single digits in three of the last four contests, including nine Tuesday while seeing limited minutes for precautionary reasons after suffering a sore knee.

Junior Michaela Pomeroy and senior Ella Chapman made up for it by scoring 15 and senior Jill Clark had 11, while all five starters had at least one basket before the game was four minutes old. The Panthers’ bench went on to contribute 18 points, led by six apiece from Elise Jackson and Kayley Gray.

“Everyone on the roster can score,” said Thetford coach Eric Ward, whose team is a No. 1 seed for the first time in program history. “A year or two ago, if you shut down Shyann and Michaela, you had a much better chance. We’re blessed this year because if you double either of those two, somebody’s going to be open and (Josler and Pomeroy) are not afraid to make the extra pass. That’s why having the balance that we do results in so many points.”

Thetford has been similarly steadfast on defense, playing a stubborn full-court man-to-man that held 13 opponents to fewer than 30 points and three to under 20.

“Even on defense, it comes down to balance, because you can’t just beat one or two defenders,” said Ward. “We extend the defense when we have to and get a lot of help on the weak (non-ball) side.”

The Panthers tamed a speedy-but-turnover-prone Raiders team Tuesday, building a 21-6 lead on a putback from Clark with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.

With Josler sitting out much of the second period, Stowe executed a pair of 6-0 runs and drew within 30-20 at halftime.

“Even though this team is experienced, I think we were kind of nervous for our first playoff game, and we just kind of sat on our lead in the second quarter,” Ward said. “We talked at halftime about coming out stronger.”

The Panthers obviously got the message, matching their first half with 30 points in the third quarter. Josler scored the first five and Pomeroy had a personal 6-2 spurt mid-quarter, executing pair of fast-break layups as well as a jump shot from near the top of the key.

Pomeroy (10.6 ppg) has reached double figures in five of the last six.

“I’ve been trying to step up and score more. We all have,” the junior said. “When I’m out there and (Josler) isn’t, I try to take on the point guard role because that’s probably what I’ll be next year.”

Stowe outscored Thetford 14-12 in the final period, with Sherwin Bailey and Randi Garon hitting 3-pointers for the visitors. But Thetford got baskets from Gray and Rozzlyn Kidder in the final minutes as the Panthers scored more than 70 points for the first time ever in a playoff game.

Extra Points: Junior Ashley Raymond led Stowe with 14 points. ... Thetford uncharacteristically committed 21 turnovers, which was still two fewer than the Raiders. ... It was Thetford’s first game in seven days after its scheduled regular-season finale at No. 3 Oxbow was first postponed, then canceled two days later because of separate snowstorms last week. ... Tuesday’s snow clearly affected attendance, at least by delaying arrivals. Most of Vaughan Gym’s seats were filled by halftime. ... It was the first playoff game in six years for the Raiders, who haven’t been out of the first round since 2002. ... Thetford will meet Hazen in the playoffs for the first time since 1995, a two-point quarterfinals loss to the Wildcats. ... Chapman’s 15 points were a career high.

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