Local Roundup: KUA Advances to Semifinals
Meriden — The father never shied away from taking the big shot, so why should the son be any different?
With the clock ticking down, his Kimball Union Academy basketball team hanging on to a tenuous two-point lead, Crew Ainge, son of former Boston Celtics player and current GM Danny Ainge, let fly an NBA-range 3-pointer that hit nothing but net. The hoop — his only basket of the second half — propelled KUA to a 54-51 victory over visiting Vermont Academy in the NEPSAC Class AA quarterfinals.
Trailing 46-42 with seven minutes to play, KUA went on a 9-0 run to grab back the lead. Hoops by Oliver Tot (eight points), Malik Abu (16 points) and Duby Maduegbunam (15 points) set the stage for Ainge’s long-distance clincher.
It was a game of runs, with KUA breaking out to an 11-3 lead on the strength of Maduegbunam’s personal 9-point run. But Vermont Academy responded with an 11-3 run of its own to get back even at 14-all.
From there, the teams basically traded baskets, with KUA’s 27-24 lead at the break being the largest advantage over the final minutes.
KUA was having trouble scoring on the long-armed zone of Vermont Academy. Either long range 3-pointers misfired, or passes inside the zone got picked up, forcing the Wildcats to run a set offense rather than the fast breaking whirlwind that had earned them the early lead.
KUA came out firing in the second half with three straight hoops for a 34-24 advantage.
But again the visitors bounced back. Taking advantage of the play of smooth, quick guard Bruce Brown, VA went on a 15-3 run for a 39-37 lead. VA maintained control over the next few minutes to build the 46-42 advantage before the homestanding Wildcats rallied for the victory, allowing the exuberant student body crowd to rush the court in celebration.
Third-seeded KUA moves into Saturday’s semifinal against No. 2 seed Wilbraham and Monson.
— Don Mahler
Mill River 49, Hartford 42
Clarendon, Vt. — The Hurricanes’ upset bid was undone by a 22-point third quarter for the host Minutemen.
Dylan Rice had 14 points, including three 3-pointers, to pace the Hartford attack. Branson Landon added seven points while Connor Brooks chipped in with six points.
The Canes (6-15) led 24-15, on the road, at halftime in this Vermont D-II playoff opener but were held to 18 points after the break as Mill River pulled in front.
Windsor 61, Poultney 47
Poultney, Vt. — The Jacks (12-9) earned a road playoff victory in the No. 9 vs. No. 8 matchup to open the Vermont D-III playoffs.
Ethan White led Windsor with 16 points while Tyson Boudro added 15 and Mike Bradley had 14. The Jacks pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring Poultney 17-7 in the frame. Windsor did the job from the free throw line, earning a 15-2 edge from the charity stripe.
Next up for the Jacks is a matchup at top-seeded, two time defending state champion Williamstown on Friday night.
Williamstown 82, South Royalton 48
Williamstown, Vt. — The Royals were competitive against the consensus best team in Vermont D-III, falling to the top-seeded Blue Devils in the opening round of the playoffs.
Jake Kinnarney led SoRo with 13 points, while Hunter Brock added nine points. David Ballou had eight and Keanan Thompson had seven. The Royals led 8-2 early in the first quarter but Williamstown rallied to lead 14-8 after the first before exploding for 50 points in the middle two quarters.
“We had to go through them at some points. They’re a good team, I’m proud of our boys. They played their best,” Royals coach Peter Howe said.
Winooski 54, Thetford 51
Winooski, Vt. — The Panthers led by eight points at one point in the third quarter but couldn’t pull off the upset in the Vermont D-III playoff opener.
Matt Perry paced the Thetford attack, leading all scorers with 27 points. Jordan Eastman added 14 points. The Panthers (9-12) outscored the Spartans 17-6 in the second quarter and the lead changed multiple times in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of the kids stepped up and played really well,” Panthers coach Blendon Salls said. “Matt had a breakout game, he kept getting good looks at the basket.”
Lake Region 76, Oxbow 35
Barton, Vt. — The No. 14 seed Olympians saw their season come to an end against the No. 3 seed Rangers in the opening round of the Vermont D-III playoffs.
Sharon 74, Concord (Vt.) 32
Sharon — The Phoenix advanced through the first round of the Vermont D-IV playoffs in high fashion.
Tanner James was strong the whole way for Sharon with 19 points and 11 assists. Jay Knoerlein added 16 points, while Brandon Tracy added nine. The Phoenix outscored the Wildcats 43-11 in the second and third quarters.
The win breaks a streak of four consecutive opening round exits by Sharon. Next up is a matchup with Rochester in the quarterfinals. The game will be played in South Royalton, much closer to home for the Phoenix than for the Rockets, on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Rochester beat visiting Sharon 75-64 on Dec. 30.
“It’s a big weight off our shoulders,” coach Blake Fabrikant said. “We played exceptionally well on defense tonight. It’s good, we’re really looking forward to playing Rochester again.”
Twinfield 72 Mid Vermont Christian 57
Plainfield, Vt. — The Eagles saw their season come to an end as the Trojans pulled away in the fourth quarter to win in the opening round of the Vermont D-IV playoffs.
Senior Austin Sayers had 27 points in his final high school game, but fouled out with three minutes to go.
Sayers finished his high school career with 1,762 points, more than 1,000 rebounds and 300 steals according to his father, and head coach, Brian Sayers. Shane Li added a career-high 19 points for MVCS.
The score was knotted at 50-50 through three quarters before the Trojans took over in a physical fourth quarter.
Twinfield shot 21-for-37 from the free throw line, while the Eagles were just 14-for-30.
KUA 51, Berwick 33
Meriden — Abby Kelly scored 20 points as Kimball Union (16-5) rolled past Berwick Academy in the NEPSAC quarterfinals.
KUA’s Taylor Ong scored 11 points, including a 9-for-9 effort from the free-throw line. She also pulled down 13 rebounds.
The Wildcats greet Beaver Country Day School in the semifinals on Saturday.
Lebanon 5 Somersworth/Coe-Brown 4 (ot)
Rochester, n.h. — Ryan Damren capped a wild game with an overtime game-winner to lift the Raiders to a much-needed win.
With just over a minute to play in OT, Damren broke free down the ice, fought off a defender and rocketed the game winner through the five-hole. The goal was the second of the night for Damren in addition to a pair of assists.
T.J. Barber started the scoring in the first for Lebanon with assists to Riley Sleeper and Damren. The hosts then scored twice in the second to take the lead followed by goals from Damren and Tate Singleton to knot the score at 3-3 through two periods.
Trailing 4-3 after a goal 14 seconds into the third period, Lebanon tied it up just 23 seconds later on Singleton’s second goal of the night. Tanner Simms added a pair of assists while Nate Gariepy had one helper.
“I’m really proud of the way the team played tonight. This was pretty much a must-win for us in order to make the playoffs,” Raiders coach Gary Smith said. “It was a total team effort tonight.”
Goalie Joe Grout made 21 saves for Lebanon (7-12-1 overall, 6-10-1 league). The Raiders host Keene on Saturday.
Exeter 2, Hanover 1
Exeter, n.h. — The Marauders (9-11-1 overall, 6-10-1 league) came up just short in their attempt to clinch a playoff spot.
Exeter broke a scoreless tie with a goal early in the third period. The Blue Hawks then added an empty-netter with just 15 seconds to play before Ben Hartman answered for Hanover with three seconds left, assisted by Ben Chaimberg. Goalie Mike Stinson stopped 17 shots for the Marauders.
The Marauders host Trinity on Saturday in their regular season finale.
KUA 5, Milbrook 4 (ot)
Deerfield, Mass. — Jack McCarthy and Tyler Bird scored two goals apiece as Kimball Union edged Milbrook in the NEPSAC quarterfinals at Deerfield Academy.
Ben Finkelstein added a goal and two assists for the Wildcats. AJ Greer had three assists and Bird two. KUA hosts The Brooks School on Saturday.
Hanover 6, Oyster River 1
West Lebanon — The Marauders kept it rolling in their penultimate regular season contest, getting two goals from Margeaux Baker in beating the Bobcats.
Mahler Meyerrose scored early for Hanover. Baker then added back-to-back goals followed by scores from Matti Hartman, Eliza Laycock and Caroline Howell.
Howell added three assists, joining with fellow defender Baker in sparking the offensive attack. Hartman added an assist while Grace Tecca, Maddie Lyons and Julie Montgomery also had helpers. Goalie Katie Fenton had nine saves.
Hanover (17-3 overall, 15-1 league) closes the regular season with a home date against Bishop Guertin at 8:40 p.m. on Friday night.