Rivendell boys’ unbeaten start has been years in the making

  • Wyatt Underhill, of Rivendell, left, takes the ball down the court after a turnover during their game with West Rutland in Orford, N.H., on Jan. 14, 2022. Rivendell won 72-17. (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 photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Rivendell Coach Ross Convertino focuses his team between periods against West Rutland in Orford, N.H., on Jan. 14, 2022. Rivendell won 72-17. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Kyle Carter, of Rivendell, left, advances on a ball lost by Tristan Rocke, of West Rutland, right, during their game in Orford, N.H., on Jan. 14, 2022. Rivendell won 72-17. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/17/2022 8:38:44 PM
Modified: 1/18/2022 9:38:36 PM

ORFORD — When Ross Convertino first arrived at Rivendell Academy as athletic director in 2017, he needed a coach for the middle school basketball team.

Nobody was interested, so Convertino — whose coaching career includes two years as a graduate assistant for Mark Few at Gonzaga — took the job himself.

Several of those seventh and eighth graders are now upperclassmen on Convertino’s varsity boys team at Rivendell — and they seem ready to lead the Raptors into uncharted waters.

Rivendell, which opened in 2000, has never won a state title in boys basketball, but this year’s group has as good a chance as any team the school has ever had. The Raptors, with nine returning seniors and juniors, are currently 7-0 with an average margin of victory of nearly 22 points.

“I’ve known them for a good five years now,” Convertino said. “Our juniors were seventh graders, our seniors were eighth graders. We could see the potential back then. These kids have been together forever. They’re best friends on and off the floor.”

Convertino took over the varsity program in his second year as athletic director, in time for the 2018-19 season. Rivendell struggled to an 8-14 record that year, losing in the VPA Division IV quarterfinals. But the Raptors made dramatic strides the following year, finishing 20-3 and advancing to the semifinals.

Kyle Carter, now a senior guard, emerged that season as one of Rivendell’s go-to scorers, averaging 15 points per game as a sophomore. He improved to 18.8 per game last season and has been even better as a senior, with 19.9 points per contest.

The only freshman on varsity in 2018-19, Carter needs 149 more points this season to reach 1,000 for his career, which is a virtual certainty provided he stays healthy and the Raptors avoid COVID-19 cancellations.

Rivendell took a step back during last year’s pandemic-shortened season, playing just 10 games and losing in the quarterfinals to Proctor. But the Raptors have hit the ground running this year, with Carter and fellow senior guard Chris Pierce leading the way.

On Jan. 4, Rivendell trailed at Blue Mountain by 10 points at halftime, but controlled the second half to win 49-42. The Raptors had also overcome a halftime deficit in a 48-44 win over Springfield in mid-December.

“What separates us is the ability to recognize that shots aren’t falling and things are out of our control to a certain extent,” Carter said. “With that in mind, it’s less what we do on the court and more what we’re telling ourselves in the locker room. It’s a lot of intangible stuff that we show when we have those comeback wins.”

After the comeback win over Blue Mountain, Rivendell practiced only twice before its next game last Friday against West Rutland due to COVID-19 concerns within the school. Those issues caused the Raptors’ game with Oxbow on Jan. 6 to be postponed and could have halted the momentum they were building with their strong start.

But Rivendell showed no signs of rust upon returning to the court against the lowly Golden Horde, leading by 22 after a quarter and waltzing to a 72-17 win. Carter hit six 3-pointers en route to a 22-point effort, and Pierce added 18.

With 12 games still to go before the postseason, the Raptors have all their goals squarely ahead of them and are putting themselves in the best possible position to make a run at that elusive first state crown.

“It’s still early. We have a long way to go,” Convertino said. “The guys are doing a great job, but I still think there’s a lot of room to get better. Come late February, March, we’re going to be pretty dangerous.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.

A previous version of this story misstated the round in which Rivendell was eliminated in the 2018-19 VPA Division IV playoffs. The Raptors lost in the quarterfinals that year.




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