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Panthers Back  In Barre

Thetford Outlasts Enosburg In Quarterfinals

The young Thetford Academy girls basketball team has heard a lot about how strong it should be next year. As it turns out, the Panthers are pretty good this season.

Junior Shyann Josler scored 27 points, Michaela Pomeroy had 15 and Tara Pellerin made plays on both ends of the floor as Thetford beat No. 6 Enosburg Falls in the VPA Division III quarterfinals last night at home, 61-55.

The win sends the Panthers (17-5) to Thursday’s semifinals at Barre Auditorium against No. 2 Williamstown, a 54-50 winner over Green Mountain Union in the bracket’s other quarterfinal. It’s the second straight trip to Barre for Thetford, which lost to eventual champion Oxbow in the semis last year before losing four of its five starters to graduation and transfers. Even while retaining leading scorer Josler, the Panthers lost more than 60 percent of their scoring and have just one senior this year in Kaitlin Olsen. Half of their 10-person roster are freshmen and sophomores.

“We’re still young, but we work hard and we grow a little bit more and more every game,” said fourth-year Panthers coach Eric Ward. “It’s a much a different group than last year, but they’ve been great to work with.”

Josler (14.6 points per game) got Thetford to a hot start with four 3-pointers and 18 points in the first quarter, and the Panthers held a 12-point lead in the third quarter before the Hornets (14-7) rallied.

Freshman center Emilee Bose scored nine of her team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter as Enosburg began finding success inside during a 21-10 run. Mckenzie Gleason (12 points) heaved in a bucket from the paint while falling down to tie it at 48-48 and, after a jump shot from Thetford’s Elise Jackson, a 3 by Bose gave the visitors their first lead since early in the first quarter, 51-50 with 2:45 left.

The lead changed twice more, with Kathryn Wright’s put back giving the Hornets a 55-53 edge with 1:45 to play.

Pomeroy made 1-of-2 free throws leave Enosburg ahead by a single point, and they tried to force Thetford to foul with over a minute to play.

Pellerin had other ideas, stealing the ball from Bose, drawing a foul and sinking both free throws to give Thetford a 55-54 lead with 59 seconds left.

Pellerin wasn’t done, earning another steal on Enosburg’s next possession. This time she missed both free throws but gathered the rebound on the second miss and found Josler, who drew another foul and sank both freebees.

The Hornets didn’t make another basket, and the Panthers went 3-for-6 from the line in the final 45 seconds to punch their ticket to Barre.

“We had so much adrenaline. We knew we were going to find a way to win,” said Pomeroy, who added four assists to her 15-point effort. Added a teary-eyed Pellerin: “It feels amazing. I’m so happy.”

Playing despite battling laryngitis, Josler went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the first 4:15 and scored Thetford’s first 16 points, staking the Panthers to a 10-point lead after a layup with two minutes left in the quarter.

“Getting off to a fast start is really important,” Josler said. “Not only (to get separation) on the scoreboard but also to get our team and our crowd into it.”

Pomeroy’s turn to make an impact came in the second quarter, when she scored eight of her 15 points to help keep the Hornets at arm’s length. She scored the last five points of the half, hitting a bank shot before an offensive put back. She made a steal immediately following Enosburg’s ensuing inbounds pass and drew a foul, hitting 1-of-2 to put Thetford up 30-18 at halftime.

“Michaela has sort of been our floor general all year,” Ward said. “She’s a very gritty player defensively and she’s not afraid to put it all on the line for us.”

Thetford had other contributors, including career-best scoring from Jackson (eight points) and six points from freshman Kayley Gray.

Jackson scored six in the third quarter as the Panthers maintained their lead, including two layups on feeds from Erika Gray. Jackson’s putback of a 3-point miss from Josler gave the Panthers their largest lead, 39-27, with 2:15 left in the third.

Enosburg rallied from there as it began to own the boards and Bose got going with Thetford playing more conservative defense.

“We knew Enosburg was a good team and that they were probably going to come back on us,” said Ward. “Once we got out of our 2-2-1 press and some of our subs got in, in the second half, they were able to get the ball inside and didn’t give up.”

Free Throws: Thetford hit 25-of-37 free throws while the Hornets were 8-of-16 from the line. ... Enosburg, which had reached the final four in six of the last seven years, brought a large and vocal crowd. ... Many Oxbow girls players, who lost to the Hornets in the first round in Enosburg Falls, were also on hand. ... Enosburg finished with a 29-26 rebounding advantage but committed 19 turnovers to 13 for the Panthers. ... Josler’s 27 were four shy of her career high.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.