Last-second 3-pointer keeps White River Valley from boys basketball title

  • White River Valley’s Brayden Russ (15) and Arliss Spaulding react to the winning three-point shot by Blue Mountain’s Jacob Dube (51) during the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. Blue Mountain won, 26-25. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • White River Valley’s Brayden Russ pushes the ball up court on a Blue Mountain turnover during the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. Blue Mountain won, 26-25, in a defensive battle between the teams. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • White River Valley’s Arliss Spaulding (14) gets control of a loose ball to pass it to an open teammate during the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. At left is the Wildcats’ Brayden Russ and Austin Tracy is in the foreground. Blue Mountain won, 26-25. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • White River Valley’s Austin Tracy is called for his fifth foul on Blue Mountain’s Kason Blood while battling for a rebound during the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. Blue Mountain won, 26-25, in a defensive battle between the teams. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • White River Valley’s Dominic Craven, left, dribbles to the hoop on a fast break against Blue Mountain’s John Dennis before getting fouled during the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. Blue Mountain won, 26-25. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • White River Valley head coach Mike Gaudette and his team are stunned by Blue Mountain’s last second 26-25 win in the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • White River Valley’s Macin Gaudette, center, scrambles for a loose ball against Blue Mountain’s Evan Dennis, left, and John Dennis during the VPA Division IV boys basketball state championship in Barre, Vt., on March 13, 2022. Blue Mountain won, 26-25. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/14/2022 12:24:38 PM
Modified: 3/14/2022 12:24:25 PM

BARRE, Vt. — After Blue Mountain’s stunning comeback eliminated Rivendell in the VPA Division IV boys basketball semifinals on Monday, Raptors head coach Ross Convertino remarked that “funny things happen” in Barre Auditorium.

Well, funny things happened again in Sunday’s championship game, with the fourth-seeded Bucks again the beneficiaries — this time at the expense of No. 3 seed White River Valley.

After a second half that had seen just two field goals, both by the Wildcats, Blue Mountain found itself trailing by three with 45 seconds left. John Dennis hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to tie the game, but WRV took the lead right back when senior guard Dominic Craven found freshman guard Braeden Russ for a layup.

The Bucks, however, had just enough time for one last play, with Jacob Dube’s 3-pointer finding the bottom of the net as time expired to give Blue Mountain a stunning 26-25 win and its first state title since 2001.

“We were back on defense. We set up,” Wildcats head coach Mike Gaudette said. “(Dube) was beyond NBA range. Today was his lucky day.”

WRV (17-5) battled foul trouble all day, and if the Bucks had hit more free throws — they shot just 9-for-23 from the foul line — a buzzer-beater would not have been necessary. Senior forward Austin Tracy fouled out with more than six minutes left, and senior guard Arliss Spaulding picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter.

The Wildcats closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run to take a three-point edge, with senior center Weston Trombly controlling the post and Craven hitting a 3-pointer from the corner to flip the lead. Evan Dennis keyed a six-point run for Blue Mountain to start the second with a pair of steals that led to fast-break layups, but a short jumper by Trombly and another 3-pointer from Craven put WRV back on top by two.

The Bucks tied the score at 14 before halftime when Trombly deflected an entry pass to John Dennis, but he inadvertently tipped the ball up and into the wrong basket, a play that would loom large later.

“Nerves played a huge part,” Gaudette said. “That’s kind of the lore of this building.”

The tie held for more than half of the third quarter, and neither side made a field goal until Russ’s scoop layup nearly seven minutes into the half. That gave the Wildcats a 18-16 lead entering the final period, which was just as much of a defensive struggle until the final minute.

Blue Mountain, with a 20-19 lead, held the ball for more than a minute at one point before coming up empty. Russ, who was the only WRV player to make a field goal in the second half, then hit from just inside the arc to put the Wildcats up by one. Craven made two free throws to give his team a three-point lead before the fast-paced final sequence.

“We know they’re real methodical offensively,” Gaudette said. “When we were down a point, and they were taking time off the clock, I thought that played into our hands. There was no mental mistake on defense, (Dube) just hit a good shot on us. I give Dom and Braeden credit at the end for attacking the basket and scoring. We had the lead with 10 seconds left.”

Neither side had a player in double figures. Craven led WRV with nine points, Trombly added eight and Russ chipped in with six. Evan Dennis had seven to lead the Bucks, with his cousin John adding six. Dube’s game-winner was his only basket of the game.

The Wildcats will graduate Craven, Trombly, Tracy, Spaulding and Macin Gaudette. It’s the first group to play all four years at White River Valley following the merger of South Royalton and Whitcomb, and the Wildcats lost in the quarterfinals each of the last three seasons before falling just short of their first title this year.

“This is the group I came in with four years ago,” Mike Gaudette said. “They’ve been with me forever. This loss hasn’t hit me yet — it will later — but I care more about the kids who paved the way for us. That’s all I can think of right now. They’re good kids, and we’re going to miss them dearly.”

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


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