VPA boys basketball: WRV routs BFA-Fairfax, Hartford prevails

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-01-2023 11:36 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — The White River Valley boys basketball team had a sign behind its bench for Tuesday’s playoff opener that read “Finish the Mission.”

The Wildcats’ girls team put up the sign for their own playoff run last week, which ended in a quarterfinal loss to Peoples. But seeing as the boys had a state championship in their grasp last year before falling on a buzzer-beater, the message was certainly applicable to them as well.

WRV has a long way to go to finish its mission, but the Cats got off to an excellent start on Tuesday night, cruising to a 74-41 victory over BFA-Fairfax in the VPA Division III first round behind 25 points from sophomore guard Brayden Russ and 23 from junior guard Tattin Griffin.

“They came to play today,” WRV coach DJ Craven said. “I’m very impressed with them right now, very happy.”

The No. 7 seed Wildcats (13-8) built an early seven-point lead, but the 10th-seeded Bullets scored eight straight points to go in front for the first — and, as it turned out, only — time with a 3-pointer on the first possession of the second quarter.

Griffin came right back with a left-pocket 3-pointer of his own, then got a steal for an easy layup. Russ then led a fast-break for an old-fashioned 3-point play.

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Just like that, WRV had answered BFA-Fairfax’s eight-point run with one of its own, and the Cats were just getting warmed up. Griffin scored 14 points in the second quarter alone as WRV exploded for 27 in the period.

“He’s such a good ballplayer,” Russ said of Griffin. “He’ll go at anybody, and he’s capable of these performances day in and day out.”

The hosts stayed on the attack in the second half — after going scoreless for the first four minutes of the third quarter, the Wildcats scored the last 10 points of the period to stretch their lead to 23, and it only kept growing in the fourth with Craven emptying the bench.

WRV’s 74 points were a season high, eclipsing the 72 the Cats put on Sharon in early January. With No. 2 Hazen, led by walking double-double Tyler Rivard in the post, likely White River Valley’s next opponent, the Wildcats may need to come close to that number again Friday to secure a return trip to Barre Auditorium.

“A big part about the playoffs is knowing who you’re going up against, how that team plays and how you can limit their best players,” Russ said. “A lot of it is going to be preparation and hard work.”

Hartford 61, Otter Valley 41

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Closing with a flourish, the No. 5 seed Hurricanes pulled away from visiting Otter Valley for a victory to open the VPA Division II playoffs.

Hartford started the game firing on all cylinders, building a 17-11 edge after the first quarter. The No. 12 seed Otters would hang close and outscore the hosts, 13-11, in the third quarter to trail by just eight, 42-34, heading into the fourth. The final frame belonged to the Canes, however, as Hartford erased any doubt by closing out the game on a 19-7 run.

Brayden Trombly had a double-double for the Canes with 17 points and 12 rebounds, also chipping in a pair of blocks. Brady Olmstead added 14 points while dishing out five assists. Christian Hathorn also had 14 points. All three (Trombly, Olmstead and Hathorn) are juniors for this surging Canes team.

The Hurricanes improved to 18-3 overall with the win, the most single-season wins in school history. Hartford now advances to play at No. 4 seed Montpelier in the D-II quarterfinals on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302. Bill Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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