Holiday Treat: Hartford Grabs First Win

  • Hartford Head Coach Steve Landon prepares his team to go into the second half with a 21 - 8 lead over Harwood in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, December 22, 2016. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Keith Illingworth, of Hartford, middle, attempts to block a shot by Shiv Seethepalli, or Harwood, right, at Hartford High School in White River Junction, Vt., Thursday, December 22, 2016. Liam Harper, of Harwood is at left. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Friday, December 23, 2016

White River Junction— The Hartford High boys basketball team rousted the monkey off its back on Thursday — just in time for the Hurricanes to enjoy the holidays.

Hartford defeated Harwood 50-37 at home for its first victory of the season.

“Thank god we got our first win,” Hartford coach Steve Landon said. “Good bad or ugly, getting a win is huge for us right now, especially going in to a little bit of a break.”

The hosts improved to 1-2; the visiting Highlanders dropped to 2-3.

Austin Gaudette led the Canes’ balanced attack with 14 points and his starting backcourt mate, Tristan Potter, chipped in 10.

“It’s going to really get us going on the season,” Gaudette said of the home opener. “We’re going to start coming together as a team. I think the mentality’s going to be a lot better.”

Thursday’s game plan was fairly straightforward, according to Gaudette: Shut down Harwood senior leaders Lucas Baron and Shiv Seethepalli.

“It worked pretty well,” Gaudette said after his team held Baron to 14 points and Seethepalli to just four.

The hosts looked dominant early on — taking an 11-2 lead into the second quarter and a 21-8 advantage into intermission — despite not having starting center Keith Illingworth for much of the first half. The 6-foot-7 senior captain picked up his second foul with 3:47 remaining in the first quarter.

“The game didn’t dictate that I needed to bring him back (during the first half),” Landon said. “But I told him if the game got away from us, he was going back in.”

Added Illingworth: “It was frustrating. I had some dumb fouls I didn’t need to commit.”

The Hartford big man finally returned to the court to start the second half and quickly made an impact by scoring six points, grabbing two rebounds and blocking a shot in a span of 2:14.

“Third quarter, I was fresh and ready to go,” he said. “I wanted to get out there.”

Harwood refused to roll over, cutting the lead to nine points early in the fourth quarter. The Canes responded with a quick run sparked by Gavin Farnsworth, who made two steals, a block and a layup to help push the lead safely back into double digits.

Farnsworth, a senior spark plug, had a tremendous all-around effort finishing with nine points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Landon clearly relished Hartford’s first victory, but cautioned his players not to take their accomplishment lightly.

“You’re going into the holiday with a W,” Landon told his team. “Be happy, but don’t be complacent.”

The Canes committed 10 turnovers, but were aggressive on the defensive end, capturing 12 steals.

Hartford, which lost its first two games to Mill River and state champion Lyndon Institute, respectively, won’t play again until Wednesday. The break should allow the squad to both rest and make necessary adjustments.

“I’m very happy with our defensive effort,” Landon said. “We just have to keep figuring it out on offense when things don’t necessarily go our way. … Once we figure it out on offense, I think we could be a tough out for anybody.”

The Canes return to action on Wednesday at Lake Region before hosting rival Woodstock on Dec. 30.

Illingworth, who finished with eight points, spoke to his team’s mindset going into the layoff.

“We’ve had a rough last few games,” Illingworth said. “We wanted to get the season going, go into vacation on a good note, then see what comes after.”