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Thetford Reaches Final; Oxbow Nearly Pulls Off Upset

  • Shyan Josler, number one, and Erika Gray of Thetford embrace after winning their VPA Division III semifinal against Enosburg 62 - 49 at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. <br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Shyan Josler, number one, and Erika Gray of Thetford embrace after winning their VPA Division III semifinal against Enosburg 62 - 49 at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Oxbow's Kathleen Stevens-Metcalf, left, and Helen-Mae Stevens-Metcalf, right, react as Williamstown pulls ahead in the fourth quarter during their VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Williamstown won 61 - 55.

    Oxbow's Kathleen Stevens-Metcalf, left, and Helen-Mae Stevens-Metcalf, right, react as Williamstown pulls ahead in the fourth quarter during their VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Williamstown won 61 - 55. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Oxbow head coach Barry Emerson is given a technical foul in the fourth quarter of the VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Williamstown made both resulting free throws allowing them to turn the tide for the remainder of the game. Williamstown won 61 - 55.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>

    Oxbow head coach Barry Emerson is given a technical foul in the fourth quarter of the VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Williamstown made both resulting free throws allowing them to turn the tide for the remainder of the game. Williamstown won 61 - 55.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Michaela Pomeroy, of Thetford, left, and Brooke Stonge, of Enosburg, right, lunge for a rebound during their VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Thetford won 62 - 49.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Michaela Pomeroy, of Thetford, left, and Brooke Stonge, of Enosburg, right, lunge for a rebound during their VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Thetford won 62 - 49.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Shyan Josler, number one, and Erika Gray of Thetford embrace after winning their VPA Division III semifinal against Enosburg 62 - 49 at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. <br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com
  • Oxbow's Kathleen Stevens-Metcalf, left, and Helen-Mae Stevens-Metcalf, right, react as Williamstown pulls ahead in the fourth quarter during their VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Williamstown won 61 - 55.
  • Oxbow head coach Barry Emerson is given a technical foul in the fourth quarter of the VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Williamstown made both resulting free throws allowing them to turn the tide for the remainder of the game. Williamstown won 61 - 55.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>
  • Michaela Pomeroy, of Thetford, left, and Brooke Stonge, of Enosburg, right, lunge for a rebound during their VPA Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium Thursday, February 27, 2014. Thetford won 62 - 49.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

Barre, Vt. — Only one Upper Valley team will be playing for the VPA Division III girls basketball title game Saturday.

Top-ranked Thetford took care of No. 4 Enosburg Falls, 62-49, while No. 3 Oxbow fell to unbeaten, second-ranked Williamstown in the late semifinal at Barre Auditorium, 61-55.

A late momentum shift doomed the Olympians (18-4) in a back-and-fourth affair with the press-and-run Blue Devils (22-0), who advanced to their second straight final after losing to Winooski here last year.

It’ll be the first championship game appearance since 2005 for the Panthers (21-1), who’d lost in the semis each of the last two years.

Thetford 62, Enosburg 49

The Panthers broke open a nip-and-tuck game by outscoring the Hornets 28-15 in the fourth quarter.

Tied 34-34 after three periods, Panthers senior Shyann Josler scored 11 of her game-high 19 points in the final period. She hit a jumper to make it 41-39, breaking the seventh tie of the night, then dashed for a pair of layups following passes from classmate Ella Chapman (15 points) as Thetford built a 49-41 lead with four minutes left.

Thetford stretched its advantage from there, going 11-for-14 from the free throw line down the stretch.

Chapman’s 15 points tied a career-high as she reached double figures for the fifth straight game and seventh time in eight contests.

Jill Clark, also a senior, scored 12 points, nearly doubling her season average as Thetford’s superior depth prevailed.

Chloe Longe had 12 and Josie Curtis 11 for Enosburg.

Thetford led by eight in the third quarter, but the Hornets rallied to take a 34-32 lead on a layup from Cassie Westcom.

“Enosburg is a good team and took advantage of some of the things we weren’t doing well,” said Thetford coach Eric Ward. “We had some turnovers and were kind of playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. In the fourth quarter, we settled in.”

Josler, Thetford’s career 1,000-point scorer, was elated to heading back to Barre for the finals after the Panthers were ousted here each of the last two years.

“The curse is over, that’s what we’ve been saying,” said Josler. “We knew we had to win as a team and had a lot of girls step up. In the second half, we started playing our game.”

Thetford takes on Williamstown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for the title.

Williamstown 61, Oxbow 55

The O’s were in position for an upset, leading for much of the night before Williamstown’s 12-5 run in the final 2:04.

Blue Devils guard Dani Jesmouth finished with 18 points and freshman Jayme Ducharme had 12 for diminutive Williamstown (22-0), which had no answer for Oxbow senior center Mikayla Hodge.

Hodge scored 28 points despite spending most of the second quarter on the bench with two fouls.

Classmates Malaina Wright (13 points), Cassie Hutchinson, Sabrina French and others helped weather the Blue Devils’ press-and-run storm that has befuddled opponents all season under ninth-year coach Sid Sweet.

“We knew if we could handle the press, we were going to have a chance,” said first-year Oxbow coach Barry Emerson, whose team was looking for its second title-game appearance in three seasons. “It’s one thing to break the press, but you still have to make layups and we were able to do that at times tonight.”

Oxbow led by as many as six in the first half before battling through seven ties and six lead changes through the first 14 minutes of the second half.

The O’s were up 50-49 when officials didn’t hear Emerson screaming for a timeout and instead whistled Lauren Tomlinson for a 10-second violation and turnover with 2:04 to play.

Emerson was livid and demonstrably pleaded his case to officials, who awarded Williamstown possession. Emerson, who’d lost his gum while shouting, kicked it off the court near the scorer’s table and was issued a technical foul.

Jesmouth made both free throws and the Devils’ Sarah Belevance promptly sank a 3-pointer on the following possession to give Williamstown a 54-50 lead with 1:50 left.

“If you want to say I cost us the game, you can say that,” Emerson said afterward. “You can say it’s on me.”

The sequence wasn’t the only thing that cost Oxbow, however, as Hodge missed a layup — one of her only missed field goal attempts of the game and Williamstown sank 7-of-10 free throws in the final minutes to clinch the six-point win.

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