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Hartford Girls Pull Away From Lake Region

White River Junction — After watching a 19-4 lead dissolve into a 26-26 tie, Hartford High girls basketball coach Ed Kehoe was beginning to wonder what happened to that tough defense his team is so noted for.

“We became impatient offensive and broke down defensively,” said Kehoe of his team’s rough stretch.

Fortunately there was plenty of time to recover, and in the end it turned out to be a comfortable 60-39 quarterfinal win over visiting Lake Region for the No. 4-ranked Hurricanes. The victory sends Hartford, the defending VPA Division II champs, to the Barre Auditorium on Monday for an 8:15 p.m. semifinal matchup with No. 1-ranked Mount Abraham.

The Eagles advanced with a 46-16 win over No. 8 Lamoille.

The Hurricanes, now 19-3, have not lost since Jan. 9, and when they rushed out to a quick 11-0 lead that turned into a 19-4 advantage after one period there was every indication that this was going to be an easy night.

The Canes had everything going their way: they were boxing out on defense, taking good shots and forcing turnovers.

“We certainly had the jitters early on,“ Lake Region coach Mark Tinker said of his fifth-seeded, 17-5 Rangers.

“We knew coming into this game that Hartford was going to come at us defensively and we tried to get ready, but panic set in.

“The break at the end of the first period gave us some time to collect ourselves and make some adjustments.”

Whatever adjustments Tinker made, combined with an erratic period by the Hurricanes, resulted in a 17-7 Ranger edge in the second period.

Suddenly, a contest that appeared to have all the makings of a rout, turned into a ballgame with Hartford ahead just 26-21 at the break.

It didn’t help the Hartford cause that first Kelsey Kehoe and then Stephanie Grobe — who went on to have a monster game — each picked up their third fouls in the second quarter.

“I had to roll the dice there,” Kehoe said as he left Grobe in and took his daughter, Kelsey, out. “I couldn’t take them both out,” he said.

Spurred on by their strong second period, the Rangers eventually tied the game at 26. That’s when Devon Day came off the bench to give Hartford a crityicial boost.

First, Day hit a pair of free throws to help push the Canes back on top. Then, after hitting two more freebies to make it 37-29, Day snuck past the Lake Region defense to grab a rebound off a missed free throw and made it 339-29.

The Hurricanes were never threatened again.

“She was a real spark for us tonight,” praised Kehoe.

If Day was a spark, Grobe was a forest fire. She had 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, snared nine rebounds, dished out five assists and had four steals and two blocked shots. She also only sat down for less than three minutes all night.

“Steph was just simply great,” said Kehoe.

Between Day’s four-point spurt, there were two significant 3-point baskets.

The 3-point shot has been a big part of the Hartford attack in recent games, getting seven in the earlier playdown win over Mill River.

But last night the Canes were only able to convert on three. However, Taylor Johnson, the Canes top outside shooter, got one when the game was still close at 32-29 and then Chelsea Dow hit one from the side to make it 42-29.

“Hey, we’re in the final four,” said Kehoe.

It was a good night for the Kehoe brothers. Tim’s Lebanon team won the New Hampshire Division II state championship earlier in the evening.