Six teams will convene to determine three champions at Barre Auditorium today as the Division II, III and IV state titles will be decided in a trio of contests, each offering a dose of intrigue.
In Division II, there’s a battle between two of the best defensive teams in the state, top-seeded Mount Abraham and No. 3 BFA-Fairfax. In Division III, two teams — No.2 Williamstown and No. 5 Winooski — that have never reached the title game will meet in a historic final and in Division IV, sixth-seeded Arlington can also make history by becoming the lowest seed to win a D-IV state title when it faces a top-seeded Proctor team seeking its first back-to-back titles.
No. 3 BFA-Fairfax (21-2)
vs. No. 1 Mount Abraham (22-1)
After losing in the title game the last two years, Mount Abraham coach Connie LaRose thought her team might need a little more seasoning before getting another crack at winning the second title in school history.
“Honestly, I really thought we were a year away from making this run,” said LaRose, following her team’s semifinal win. “But, we’ll take it.”
Juniors Ashlie Fay and Meg Livingston are both averaging 14 points per game in the playoffs. Fellow junior Samantha Driscoll and sophomore center Isabel Brennan have reached double figures in scoring during the postseason for a Bullet team that has allowed just 25.6 points per game this season.
BFA-Fairfax, competing in the Division II tournament for just the second year after spending the rest of its history in Division III, also has a balanced attack and a stingy defense.
Senior forwards Meghan Bochanski and Kayla Baczewski and sophomore point guard Chace Carpenter have taken turns leading the team in scoring in the Bullets’ three playoff wins. BFA-Fairfax has allowed 29.7 points per game this season.
Both teams have held opponents to under 30 points 15 times in 23 games this season.
“We need to handle their pressure, make good decisions with the basketball and play our pace,” said BFA-Fairfax coach Mike Wells. “It’s going to take a physical and mental commitment for 32 minutes.
A BFA-Fairfax win would give the Bullets their first state title since a Division III crowd back in 1981. Mount Abraham, which is 1-6 in its previous title game appearances, won it’s lone title in 1997.
“These kids have already done more (that I thought they would),” said LaRose. “(And) they just getting better and better. We’re not perfect by any means, but we’ve done some good stuff.”
No. 5 Winooski (17-6)
vs. No. 2 Williamstown (19-4)
Both teams are in unchartered waters as neither has even been to a girls basketball championship final before tonight’s rematch of a regular-season meeting in which the Spartans won by 20 points (61-41).
The Blue Devils have had four players reach double figures during their playoff run with Dani Jesmonth scoring 10 points in each game. However, Jesmonth was injured late in the semifinal win over Thetford.
“We’re going to plan on not (having her),” said Blue Devil coach Sid Sweet after Thursday’s semifinal win.”
If Jesmonth is unable to play the scoring balance provided by Nicole Carrier, Carissa Carrier and Shayna Guild, among others, will keep Williamstown in the game, said Sweet.
“We have to continue to run. We just have to (try to) take (Winooski leading scorer Brianna) Robare out of her comfort zone and hope our four our better than their four. With or without Dani I feel we’re going to have a pretty good shot,” said Sweet.
Robare had 27 points in a virtuoso performance in a semifinal win over Hazen and how the best player in the Division III tournament performs will have a large say in whether the Spartans girls can hang their first girls basketball banner.
In addition to Robare, the Spartans will rely on the 3-point shooting of senior Ashley Antoniak, slashing drives to the hoop by junior Fallon Perrault and hustle and persistence in the paint by sophomore starters Amanda Nattress and Christina Dang to keep pace with the up-tempo style favored by the Blue Devils.
“We beat them by 20 last time, but we definitely have to come with out ‘A’ game,” said Winooski coach Tom Prim.
No. 6 Arlington (14-8)
vs. No. 1 Proctor (20-2)
The sixth-seeded Eagles are the lowest seed to reach the finals since Danville did the same back in 1994 and with a win Arlington would become the lowest seed to win a Division IV girls basketball state championship (Danville did as the No. 5 seed in 1997).
Arlington began the year 2-5 and after a seven-game win streak finished the season 2-3, including 55-53 and 51-42 losses to Proctor on back-to-back days (Feb. 19 and 20).
Senior Rayleen Sherman managed 23 points in the semifinal upset of West Rutland. Julie Lacoste (14 points) and Brooke Hawley (10) also reached double figures in the semis for Arlington, which is 9-3 all-time in state championship games and 2-2 in Division IV.
The Phantoms are a deep squad, evidenced by the fact that three girls have led the team in scoring in their three playoff wins — Carissa Elrick had 12 in the playdowns, Megan Carter had 15 in the quarters and freshman sensation Abby McKearin scored 10 off the bench in the semifinals.