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Sibling Revelry Grows After Hoop Rivals Unite

  • Rochester senior Pavin Parrish directs defensive traffic under the basket during the Rockets' 56-49 win at Mid Vermont Christian on Jan. 15. It's been an unusual season for Parrish, who recently topped the career 2,000-point plateau while getting used to see his younger sister, Phoebe, don Whitcomb High colors as part of a cooperative girls basketball team involving the two schools. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

    Rochester senior Pavin Parrish directs defensive traffic under the basket during the Rockets' 56-49 win at Mid Vermont Christian on Jan. 15. It's been an unusual season for Parrish, who recently topped the career 2,000-point plateau while getting used to see his younger sister, Phoebe, don Whitcomb High colors as part of a cooperative girls basketball team involving the two schools. Valley News -- Greg Fennell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Whitcomb's Phoebe Parrish watches the flight of a Mid Vermont Christian free throw during the second half of the Hornets' 53-35 win in Quechee on Jan. 15. Parrish, one of four Rochester High players on Whitcomb's cooperative team, scored 15 points in the win and has been one of the Hornets' top scorers all season. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

    Whitcomb's Phoebe Parrish watches the flight of a Mid Vermont Christian free throw during the second half of the Hornets' 53-35 win in Quechee on Jan. 15. Parrish, one of four Rochester High players on Whitcomb's cooperative team, scored 15 points in the win and has been one of the Hornets' top scorers all season. Valley News -- Greg Fennell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rochester senior Pavin Parrish directs defensive traffic under the basket during the Rockets' 56-49 win at Mid Vermont Christian on Jan. 15. It's been an unusual season for Parrish, who recently topped the career 2,000-point plateau while getting used to see his younger sister, Phoebe, don Whitcomb High colors as part of a cooperative girls basketball team involving the two schools. Valley News -- Greg Fennell
  • Whitcomb's Phoebe Parrish watches the flight of a Mid Vermont Christian free throw during the second half of the Hornets' 53-35 win in Quechee on Jan. 15. Parrish, one of four Rochester High players on Whitcomb's cooperative team, scored 15 points in the win and has been one of the Hornets' top scorers all season. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

Quechee — The notion that life has changed a little in the Parrish household this winter still sometimes slips the mind.

It happened again last week. Phoebe Parrish and her older brother, Pavin, had basketball games to play at the Mid Vermont Christian School. Being the attentive mom she is, Penny Parrish made sure to remind her kids to have their game uniforms ready for the road trip.

“Sometimes, my mom will be like, ‘Phoebe, don’t forget your blue uniform,’ ” Pavin said last week. “She’s like, ‘Mom, I play for Whitcomb now. It’s green.’ ”

The shades of Parrish basketball have changed this year, just as the shades of the Bethel-Rochester rivalry have also changed over the years.

Whitcomb High and Rochester High sit 12 miles apart, with Bethel Mountain Road the primary link. For years, given their proximity and similar size, the two schools enjoyed a spirited rivalry, particularly in basketball where they held their own Beanpot game to signal the start of a new season.

It’s less the case these days. Declining enrollment led the schools to form several cooperative teams this school year, including girls basketball.

Hence: The peculiar case of the Parrish players. As he has for five seasons, Pavin Parrish — a varsity basketballer since the eighth grade — is competing in his accustomed Rochester blue and white. Because of low numbers at both schools, his sophomore sister, Phoebe, has adopted Whitcomb green and white.

The Parrish family is the only one whose house has been split — if that’s the right word — by the situation this winter. Save for the jersey color, however, it’s as if nothing has changed.

“I was pretty disappointed that we weren’t going to have a mutual jersey, and that they everyone else got to be Rockets and we didn’t,” Phoebe Parrish confessed after playing an important role in Whitcomb’s 53-35 win at MVCS on Jan. 15. “I think next year we’re gonna try more of a meld thing, but I do miss the blue uniform.”

The Rocket boys and Hornet girls still have their hoop night doubleheaders. They just don’t have junior varsities to follow onto the floor.

By Phoebe Parrish’s count, only twice this season have her new teammates and her brother’s squad not played back-to-back on a game night. That’s deliberate: Rochester athletic director Jeff Mills and his Whitcomb counterpart, Willy Walker, worked to have the teams travel together as much as possible.

When there’s a conflict, Penny Parrish goes with Phoebe. Peter Parrish is an assistant coach with the Rochester boys.

“It’s just to cut down on the travel time; the Rochester boys don’t have a jayvee, we don’t have a jayvee team, so it just made sense,” Whitcomb girls basketball coach Dennis Wood said after the MVCS twinbill in Quechee. “It depends where we’re going. If they’re between us (and the destination), we start at Whitcomb and pick them up. Today, they started at Rochester and picked us up.”

The half-here, half-there approach stretches to practices. For two weeks, the Hornets work out in Bethel; the next two weeks, they go to Rochester. Those who don’t drive can access a late afternoon bus between the schools.

A typical Rochester School day for Phoebe Parrish ends at 3 p.m. She’ll get as much homework done and grab a bite to eat in time to pick up the 4:45 p.m. bus to Whitcomb, usually getting home around 8 p.m. to complete what schoolwork she didn’t already finish. The Hornets are also splitting their home games between the towns.

“They kind of explained it to us at the beginning of the year that we would have some bus trips with them,” Pavin Parrish said. “It’s kind of weird seeing some of the Bethel girls hop onto our bus ready to go. It’s like, ‘What are you doing here?’ But you kind of get used to it. It’s kind of normal.”

There are occasions when the unusual crops up.

After the Whitcomb girls completed their win over Mid Vermont last week, Wood tried to herd the Hornets into the locker room for a post-game talk. But one of his Rochester-based players — he has four on the squad — lingered outside the door; her natural inclination was to root on the Rocket boys as they ran out for the second game of the night’s twinbill.

She looked briefly to Wood for permission to stay. He relented.

“She’s a good cheerer,” he said with a laugh.

The rivalry was maybe more fierce — but still amiable — when Wood donned Whitcomb togs and Peter Parrish suited up for Rochester and boys. As they got older, the two frequently linked up for town-team adult basketball or men’s softball, further breaking down any remaining barriers adolescence frequently builds.

They’ve since teamed up on summer hoop squads that have brought Rochester and Bethel girls together. Parrish admits his coaching style is the exact opposite of Wood’s proclivities.

“It was a rivalry, but it was a friendly rivalry,” said Wood, a 1973 Whitcomb graduate. “We played together in the summer a lot, but when it came down to the annual Beanpot game, which was the first game of the year, it was a good, healthy rivalry.

“The boys are still separate, so there’s still just as big a rivalry. But the girls, we played together during the summer the last two years. We went to the UVM team camp together. We either knew this was coming or we didn’t have numbers enough in the summer to go anyway.”

The joint bus trips have eased the transition. So has the camaraderie of the Hornets’ bench; even if Phoebe Parrish doesn’t have the hybrid uniform she desires, she can at least end an in-game timeout with a rousing “Whitchester!” before returning to the floor.

Rochester enjoys its basketball. A capacity crowd crammed the school’s gym on Jan. 13 to watch Pavin Parrish become the seventh member of Vermont’s elite career 2,000-point club. Mills stuffed extra chairs into the corners; some folks had to sit on the floor. Parrish did his part with a 40-point effort in an 86-50 rout of Arlington.

It was also one of the first nights of the season that Phoebe Parrish and her new team got to play in her hometown.

“Our court is concrete, so it’s hard, but I love it because it’s my home court,” she said. “There was a lot of people there, and the atmosphere was so crazy. Packed gym, people sitting on the floor. It was really intimidating.

“Last year, winning the state championship with the boys, we had a huge following. There’s a lot of community.”

That community apparently still wants its school. The Parrishes played MVCS two days after voters announced their desire to keep the Rochester School open by a two-to-one margin.

“It looks good for the future,” Phoebe Parrish said. “That was just a nonbinding vote, and there’s going to be another one in the springtime.”

Pavin Parrish will be close to moving on by then.

When Vermont high school basketball fans research his career — he was unofficially at No. 3 on the all-time points list entering last Friday’s game at Concord (Vt.), closing on No. 2 — Parrish will have the name of the Rochester School affixed to it. College coaches, mostly in Division III, have been seeking him for their teams.

It’ll be a little different for his sister.

Wood had to defend against Phoebe Parrish last winter when she was a Rochester freshman. He’s enthralled that he can plan strategy where she can help his team this year instead. School population numbers being what they are, it’s likely he’ll have the luxury in future years, too.

“She can do anything,” said Wood of Parrish, who leads Whitcomb in scoring (15.6 points per game) and who has topped the team scoresheet six times in a 9-2 start. “She’s my biggest girl, so she has to play the middle a lot against the biggest player on the other team. She jumps center. She can run the point if I need her to. She plays forward. She’s an all-around player and picks everything up so quickly, it’s a pleasure to coach her.”

Phoebe Parrish retains hope for a merged uniform for next year’s co-op team. Preferred color: black.

For Pavin and Phoebe Parrish, basketball used to be a simple choice, blue or white.

Not so this year. Now it’s blue or green. It takes some getting used to.

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