Hartford 71, Otter Valley 22: Hurricanes storm towards title

Hartford High's Charlotte Jasmin drives past Otter Valley's Hannah Desabrais to score two of her game-high 24 points during the Hurricanes' 71-22 victory on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Hartford High's Charlotte Jasmin drives past Otter Valley's Hannah Desabrais to score two of her game-high 24 points during the Hurricanes' 71-22 victory on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Valley News — Tris Wykes

Hartford High's Madison Willey, left, and Izzy Sirois, watch the closing minutes of their team's 71-22 defeat of Otter Valley on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Willey had 10 points to help the Hurricanes improve to 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Hartford High's Madison Willey, left, and Izzy Sirois, watch the closing minutes of their team's 71-22 defeat of Otter Valley on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Willey had 10 points to help the Hurricanes improve to 8-2. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Valley News — Tris Wykes

Hartford High's Miranda Rogers boxes out beneath the basket during her team's 71-22 defeat of Otter Valley on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Hartford High's Miranda Rogers boxes out beneath the basket during her team's 71-22 defeat of Otter Valley on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Hartford High's Madison Willey (21) lifts Kamryn Brower in a hug after Brower banked in a three-point shot as the first half expired on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Valley, Vt. The Hurricanes defeated Otter Valley, 71-22. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Hartford High's Madison Willey (21) lifts Kamryn Brower in a hug after Brower banked in a three-point shot as the first half expired on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Valley, Vt. The Hurricanes defeated Otter Valley, 71-22. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Valley News — Tris Wykes

Otter Valley High's Elaina Sheldrick (25) is surrounded by Hartford defenders Gabby Gardner, left, Izzy Sirois (2) and Charlotte Jasmin (4) during the Hurricanes' 71-22 victory on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Otter Valley High's Elaina Sheldrick (25) is surrounded by Hartford defenders Gabby Gardner, left, Izzy Sirois (2) and Charlotte Jasmin (4) during the Hurricanes' 71-22 victory on Jan. 26, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 01-29-2024 12:07 PM

Modified: 01-30-2024 4:15 PM


WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - The Hartford High girls basketball team waltzed past Otter Valley, 71-22, on Friday night at Hanley Gymnasium. Now 8-2, the Hurricanes look like they could reach Vermont high school basketball’s big dance at the Barre Auditorium for the first time since 2013.

“We have high expectations for the kids and we’re not in a five-year rebuilding plan or anything like that,” said coach Steve Landon, in his first season back with Hartford’s girls since guiding the program to the 2012 Division II state title. “We want to be competitive now. We could be anything we want if we continue to get better.”

Division semifinals and finals are traditionally held at the Aud before boisterous student sections and in a setting soaked in history. The Hurricanes last reached the semifinals in 2021, losing at North Country during a season in which playoff games were played on campus sites and without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To say Division II is loaded this winter is an understatement. None of its top 10 teams has a losing record and the likes of North Country (10-1), Fair Haven (10-3) and Harwood (8-2) will all be tough postseason outs.

Hartford has played Division I teams in Brattleboro (win), Mount Anthony (win) and St. Johnsbury (loss) and beaten Division II foes Springfield and Otter Valley by a combined 88 points. The rest of its schedule has been against Division III and IV foes.

A tough test comes Monday at Windsor (11-2). West Rutland (12-1) and Fair Haven lurk the week of Valentine’s Day.

Friday, the Hurricanes received 24 points from standout Charlotte Jasmin and 10 each from Kamryn Brower and Madison Willey. Becca Keelty, Izzy Sirois and Hailey Vanasse added six points each. Otter Valley dropped to 1-10.

Landon said he’s thrilled to be back at Hartford, where he coached the boys basketball team for seven years after winning the girls state title. He joked that, after stints with Woodstock’s boys and girls teams, it was easy to reach into the back of his closet and pull out his Hurricanes gear.

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“It feels good to be back here, but it’s not the building,” Landon said. “It’s the kids and I’m having so much fun.”

As always, Landon’s team ties its identify to its own end of the court. The Hurricanes are constantly shuffling, arms in the air and voices shrill, talking amongst themselves about where to be and whom to guard.

“Defensively, it’s starting to look like a team I coach,” said Landon, who used a time out against Otter Valley to specifically chide his players for leaping out of position in an effort to block shots.

“Our half-court defense has to be gritty, gritty, gritty and it’s non-negotiable. It’s man-to-man and it’s aggressive and smart.”

Such effort creates turnovers off which Hartford can capitalize. It also plays a modified press with Jasmin stationed at center court, ready to pick off ill-advised passes forced by her teammates’ tactical pressure.

“She reads their eyes and picks the ball off and that’s a crucial part of what we do,” Landon said.

Jasmin scored on more than half a dozen layups set up by her interceptions Friday. Willey, like Jasmin a three-sport standout, prospered in the paint, where she said Landon has taught her the subtleties of footwork and playing effective defense without fouling.

“I’ve never really known how to play post and him coming this year has meant I’ve learned more than all my other years,” the senior said. “I don’t think I knew a single offensive move or where I was supposed to be.”

To say the Hurricanes should be in Barre might be a stretch, but then again, who’s to say their progression can’t continue?

“I actually think we have a chance at a championship this year if we keep playing like we have,” Willey said.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.