Panthers Overcome Plenty of Obstacles
Thetford’s Tara Pellerin gets a pass off before Oxbow’s Cassie Hutchinson can block last night in Bradford, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Oxbow coach Felicia Kingsbury shouts to her team during their home game against Thetford last night in Bradford, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Bradford, Vt. — Despite illness, injury, and youth, the Thetford Academy girls basketball team maintains a firm grasp on second place in the Vermont Division III standings. In last night’s 39-30 win at Oxbow, it took until the fourth quarter before the the Panthers had things under control.
Playing with a head cold, Thetford sophomore Michaela Pomeroy scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the final three minutes, including 5-of-6 shooting from the free throw line in the last 30 seconds to cement the win for the Panthers (7-1). Thetford entered last night’s action one-half index point behind Lake Region for first place in D-III.
Thetford has excelled, even with injuries to would-be starting center Ella Chapman (knee) and junior guard Tegan Pellerin and only one player — Shyann Josler — who saw significant varsity playing time during the Panthers’ run to the semifinals last year. Sophomores accounted for 26 of their 39 points last night.
“I’m really proud of what the girls have been able to accomplish so far,” Thetford coach Eric Ward said. “A lot of the girls who were on jayvee last year have stepped up and done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
It didn’t come without strain last night against the neighboring rival Olympians (2-5) in a rematch of last year’s 44-39 Oxbow win in the D-III semis.
Both teams employed sturdy defense, but shot horrendously early on, combining to hit just 5-of-48 from the field through two quarters. Thetford shot 0-for-13 and Oxbow 1-for-9 in the first quarter as the teams scored just two points each.
“We’ve been having slow starts, and that’s been the only thing that’s hurting us,” said Pomeroy, whose 17 points matched a season high. “Luckily, our defense has been keeping us in it.”
Tied 9-9 at halftime, the O’s scored the first five points of the second half on a 3-point play from Malaina Wright (eight points, six rebounds) and a layup from Mikayla Hodge (12 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) to make it 14-9.
Pomeroy began finding her groove for Thetford, sinking a midrange jumper and a putback as part of a 6-0 Thetford run to put the Panthers back in front by a point. Sabrina French (four points, five rebounds) and point guard Emily Speck scored for Oxbow for the fourth lead change of the game, but sophomore bench player Erika Gray (six points) sank the first of her two fourth-quarter 3-pointers to kick off a 6-0 Thetford run as the back-and-forth play continued.
Oxbow rallied to force the seventh tie of the game, Hodge scoring consecutive baskets — the later on a swift relay feed from Lauren Tomlinson — to make it 22-22 midway through the fourth.
“We started slowing our offense down and stopped turning it over,” said first-year Oxbow coach Felicia Kingsbury, whose team committed just four of its 13 giveaways in the second half. “We made adjustments and started getting it inside to Mikayla.”
Thetford responded with a flourish, scoring 10 points in under a minute in the game’s defining sequence. Josler (seven points) flipped one off the backboard in the paint, Gray hit another 3-pointer and Pomeroy had a steal and fast break layup all in a span of 32 seconds, and a pair of Pomeroy free throws 21 seconds later suddenly gave the Panthers a 10-point lead, 32-22, with just 2:37 to play.
If Pomeroy had the sniffles, she wasn’t showing in the fourth quarter.
“She was blowing her nose every time we had a timeout,” Ward said. “She’s been battling a head cold. But she has that type of competitive demeanor that when she wants to come out and show what she’s got, she can really get going.”
A 6-2 Oxbow run got the O’s within 34-30 with 53 seconds left, but Pomeroy went 4-of-5 from the line in the final minute. The only miss of that span resulted in a retained Panther possession as Kidder chased down the long rebound and threw it off an Oxbow player while falling out of bounds with 24 seconds to go.
Free Throws: The Panthers’ 24 fourth-quarter points outscored by nine their total from the other three quarters combined. Thetford shot 8-for-10 from the line in the period (3-for-12 during the rest of the game) and 7-of-12 from the field (6-for-39 rest of game). ... Josler’s seven points were a season-low and the first time she’s been held to single digits since the season opener (nine at Blue Mountain). ... Oxbow’s Hodge (11.4 ppg) reached double figures for the first time since Dec. 28 after being held to nine total in its previous two games. ... Thetford outrebounded the Olympians 15-12 in the second half after the O’s owned the boards through the first two quarters, 21-12. ... Oxbow shot just 4-of-15 from the line.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.