Beyond The Score

Central Vermont Sports Blog

Playoffs and the AUD

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The last week in February is vacation week for many schools in central Vermont and it’s Vermont girls basketball playoff week as well. The Vermont Principal’ Association listed the pairings, playoff and quarter final games were held until the final four were decided in all four divisions. The mismatches are history and now the fun begins as D2, 3 and 4 teams head to the AUD in Barre while D1 prepares for games at the Patrick Gym in Burlington.

While there are some great match-ups in D1, 2 and 4, my focus has been on D3. I’ve followed two team this year; Montpelier Solons 0-20 and Williamstown Blue Devils 20-0.

Montpelier skipped the playoffs and hopefully will get ready for next year by spending some time watching games and dreaming, “We’re going to the AUD!”

Here’s a photo slideshow as a tribute to the 8 Montpelier girls who showed up everyday to practice and played their hearts out even thought they could not compete in their league.

Tribute to MHS Girls Basketball Team

The Barre AUD

The AUD, Barre Municipal Auditorium, is the home of some of the greatest basketball games ever played in Vermont from grade school to semi-pro contests of the defunct Vermont Frost Heaves. It has been the home of Vermont State Basketball Championships since 1941. USA Today claims it’s one of the “Ten Great Places to Watch High School Hoops” in the United States. The first championship game was won by Randolph Galloping Ghosts over St. Michael’s of Montpelier, 26-14. Ticket prices were $.35 students and $.50 adults. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.

DVDphotos (0)

The girls D3 Semi-Final games will be held on Thursday (2/27/14). #1 Thetford faces #4 Enosburg Falls followed by #2 Williamstown and #3 Oxbow from Bradford. The Williamstown girls are a powerhouse team. They run the floor like no other team I have seen in quite some time. They press full court for the full game in most cases. They beat Bellows Falls 97-72 in the quarter final round. They play incredible defense, trapping, diving for loose balls, taking the charge and use a sideline fast break to perfection. They use the dribble rarely and with purpose. They fill lanes and pass quickly and accurately. They are so much fun to watch. I think their test will be against Thetford Academy in the championship game assuming they both win Thursday. I worked with Coach Eric Ward of Thetford back in the 80’s. His girls are prepared for the showdown but it’s the AUD and both teams face opponents looking to upset the two best teams in D3. Anything is possible especially at the AUD!

In 2012 I wrote a message to the Lady Solons of Montpelier as they prepared for post season games and I included an article that appeared in the Times Argus back in 1988; “Savoring The Anticipation – And Memory – Of A Playoff Game” by Stephanie Carter. It’s a timeless piece and worth reading again especially before championship games.

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A reprint from 1988 of Stephanie’s column in Beyond the Score. It’s as meaningful today as it was back then!

 

Thursday February 25, 1988  Barre-Montpelier Times Argus

 

“Savoring The Anticipation – And Memory – Of A Playoff Game” by Stephanie Carter

 

The Olympic Games were worlds away from Vermont last Saturday, but the pre game anticipation, tension and nervous stomachs of important competition were present in eight gymnasiums throughout the state as 16 girls’ basketball teams were gearing up for quarterfinal action.

 

Outside was a springlike thaw with cool temperatures and plenty of sunshine. But inside, amidst banners and corsages and fans clad in school colors, a brew of nerves simmered.

 

Inside the Locker Room

 

Twenty-five minutes before game time and ankles are being taped, warm-up jackets being put on and taken off. It’s players trying to act like it’s just another game after the coach just threw up in the bathroom.It’s drilling each other on which offense is “two” and which defense is “C”. It’s remembering where you go on the press.For seniors on the higher seeded teams, it’s realizing that this is the last time they’ll play on their home court. It’s the worry that this may be the last game of their career, period.

 

In the Stands

 

Nervous parents lean forward snapping gum and wringing hands. They’ve traveled to their kids’ games since sixth grade, trying to be supportive, while not over-emphasizing the importance of sports. It’s wanting their kids to do well, but wanting them to know they’re still O.K. if they don’t win, knowing that the next 24 hours will be a whole lot brighter if they do win. It’s wondering what their kids are going through. Younger brother and sisters have come along to cheer, not certain what “quarterfinal” means, but glad to be out of the house on a Saturday afternoon. Classmates arrive in a variety of dress and mood Many wear school colors and some carry signs. Others sit back cooly for the ride. They all hope that the team wins; it’s nice to have something concrete to cheer about at school.

 

Back Inside the Locker Room

 

Fifteen minutes before game time, and for most players, it’s a struggle between knowing that basketball is not the end-all and be-all of life, yet knowing that for the next hour-and-a-half, it will be. It’s wanting to give 100 percent and worrying that you’ll have a 65 percent game that just won’t cut it. It’s daydreaming about making a jumper at the buzzer to win the game by one; it’s the nightmare that you blew it at the foul line and lost the game. It’s intense sweat in a clean, ironed uniform, looking for tape to cover barrettes. It’s looking around at teammates who have been a major part of your life for four years, knowing that they won’t be next year. It’s realizing that you got only three hours of sleep last night, but you’re far from tired.

 

Out on the Floor

 

Twelve minutes to game time and one player emerges from the locker room to find a pack of gum, and then retreats. Another struts out to pick up the usual warm-up ball. The door closes again. Then the team comes out for real to receive the biggest pre-game applause they’ve ever heard. As they splinter into two lanes for layups, it’s wondering if this is the final warm up or does it go on from here? It’s trying to block out the microphones and wires of radio, ignoring cameras, while getting a charge that they’re there. It’s players stretching and giving adrenalin-filled “high fives.” The visiting team has traveled with it’s familiar tunes and plays them now for motivation and the comfort of continuity. They have never seen this particular gym before. For the home team, it’s wanting to go out in style, winning the final game on the same floor that has been the site of running laps and sit ups and scrimmages and new plays and pulled muscles for years. It’s sneaking glances at the other team, trying to pick out the star, convincing yourself that the six footer isn’t that tall.

 

The Final Huddle

 

Hands, freezing and shaky, join before the opening buzzer. Mouths drop open to reassure each other, but no one can understand what anybody’s saying (it’s just too noisy) until the final “Let’s Go.” Then, everybody knows what to do.

 

Vermont high school basketball tournaments are a chance for players to be stars. For most of those who participate, organized basketball will never again be a part of their lives, and they will never be in such good physical condition. But for 16 teams, a Saturday quarterfinal is a reward for hard work and learning about teamwork. It’s a chance to be in the spotlight.

 

For all of its pressure and mixed messages, a basketball quarterfinal is something that won’t ever be forgotten. It is one of those frozen moments, and no matter how far from the high school gym your life takes you, that game won’t ever be lost.

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Written by Roger

February 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM

One Response

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  1. Great article Roger – Loved the slideshow. The Parento’s

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Courtney Parento

    February 24, 2014 at 5:38 PM


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