Aud Team Out
Williamstown Denies Thetford Another Trip to Title Game
Thetford coach Eric Ward directs his players with two minutes left in the game as they make a run to close the gap against Williamstown at Barre Auditorium last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Thetford’s Michaela Pomeroy, right, fights for a rebound with Williamstown’s Kimmy Gilbert. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Shyann Josler, middle, hugs Thetford teammate Kaitlin Olsen at the close of their 56-45 semifinal loss to Williamstown at Barre Auditorium last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Barre, Vt. — Too few successful shots and too many turnovers resulted in the end of the Thetford Academy girls basketball season last night during the Vermont Division III semifinals at Barre Auditorium. The No. 3 Panthers fell 56-45 to No. 2 Williamstown, falling a step short of their fourth berth in the state title game for the second consecutive year.
“Our inexperience showed tonight at times,’’ said fourth-year Thetford coach Eric Ward, whose team committed 22 turnovers. “I didn’t think it would, but it did. You can’t fault their effort, though. They worked hard and it could have been all over when we were down 15.”
It was Thetford’s second loss to Williamstown in Barre in less than a week: Last Saturday, the Blue Devils defeated the Panthers in the boys D-III title game.
The Panthers, who lost to Oxbow in last year’s semifinals, trailed 43-28 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, but pulled within 45-39 just three minutes later. Blue Devils guard Dani Jesmonth took a hard fall out of bounds at that juncture, however, and Ward felt the resulting 5-minute pause to attend to her hurt his team.
“If there hadn’t been that delay, I’m not saying we would have won, but it could have been a different last few minutes,’’ Ward said. “We were coming on strong and had them on their heels.”
Jesmonth, who played strong defense on Thetford guard Shyann Josler, didn’t return, but her teammates held the fort despite two other starters fouling out of the game. The Panthers went down nine points, pulled back within six, but ultimately couldn’t get any closer. Williamstown (19-4) sank five of its last six free throws during the final minute.
Jesmonth “defended my drives pretty well and she had a lot of help coming down once I got closer to the blocks,’’ said Josler, a junior who finished with a game-high 15 points, nine of them during the second half. “We got some different looks when she went out, but we could never dig into their lead any deeper.”
Added Ward: Jesmonth “denied that dribble penetration that Shyann wants to do and when our other girls see that, we’re young enough that it has an affect. I think the environment caught up with us a little bit tonight. We looked nervous most of the time out there.”
Thetford, which never led after scoring the game’s first basket and trailed 23-16 at halftime, made 6-of-15 free throw attempts during the second half and 12-of-25 during the game. The Panthers connected on 13-of-46 field-goal tries and 1-of-14 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc. Those numbers, plus the numerous turnovers, were too much to overcome.
“We’re pretty young and nerves was part of it,” Josler said. “We just made some bad passes that we thought would get there and they have long arms and they play good defense.”
Thetford received 11 points from Michaela Pomeroy, seven from Kayley Gray and six from Erika Gray. Ward pointed out that the Panthers overachieved after they lost four seniors to graduation, one player to a transfer and Ella Chapman to an early-season knee injury. The program is a combined 35-11 the past two seasons and had only one senior this winter, center Kaitlin Olsen.
“You have to give this group credit, because a lot of it is last year’s jayvee team,’’ Ward said. “A lot of people didn’t give us much hope of getting to this point. I just wish we could have won one more game and seen what could have happened in the championship.”
Josler, her eyes slightly reddened and moist, agreed wholeheartedly.
“It’s hard, but it’s something to be proud of, too,’’ she said. “A lot of teams don’t get to Barre and we’ve done it two years in a row.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.