Two teams are trying to get their hands on high school boys basketball championship hardware for the first time. Another, after 49 wins in a row, is a game away from retiring a trophy with a three-peat.
What better place to have the drama play out than The Aud?
Today’s title-game tripleheader at the Barre Auditorium has all of that in store when the action begins at noon with the Division IV state championship between Twin Valley and Danville.
Capital league rivals U-32 and Lyndon follow with a rubber match to settle the D-II tournament. And, in the day’s final act, two-time defending champion Williamstown looks to go out in style against its just-as-red-hot neighbor Randolph.
For more on the three state finals:
Top-seeded U-32 (19-4) has been a regular at The Aud under longtime coach Dan Gandin. That’s not exactly the case for the Raiders’ opponent, No. 2 Lyndon (18-5).
Under coach Pat Guckin, who took over the program this season, the Vikings reached their first semifinal since 1985. Their 61-43 win over Woodstock earned them the school’s first berth in a boys hoops final.
“I don’t think it’s really a big deal. Obviously it’s huge because it’s sort of a record, but these kids have faced U-32 twice a year for the last three years,” Guckin said. “A lot of my players play with their players over the summer. It’s just about us going out and playing a team we know really well.”
That they do.
Lyndon won 46-42 in early January. U-32 took the rematch 54-49 a month later. But after a 2-2 start to the season, the win over the Raiders became a launch pad for the rest of the campaign.
U-32, for whom the Lyndon loss was the only in D-II this season, has a dynamic, prolific leading duo in 1,000-point scorer Ryan Booth and big man Chris Collins seeking to lead the program to its fifth crown and first since 2010.
Axerre Ntabana leads the Vikings with 13 points per game and Mason Lantz (12 ppg), who also reached the career 1,000-point mark this year, is the second-leading scorer. Six-foot-5 Kyle Cipollone (nine ppg) and 6-6 Jay Cobb (eight ppg) offer size in the post to rival Collins.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now, we’re excited about the opportunity,” Guckin said.
No. 2 Randolph (21-2) takes a 17-game winning streak, the second-longest in the state, into tonight’s D-III final.
The only team with a longer run at the moment? That would be the Galloping Ghosts’ opponent, top-seeded Williamstown.
The Blue Devils own a 22-0 record and bring a 49-game win streak onto the court with a chance to cap a championship three-peat. Williamstown took the first meeting between the central Vermont schools, 76-56, but only snuck away with a 69-67 win in the rematch.
Double-double machine Jason Manwaring, Hunter McLaughlin and Devin Duff have powered the reigning champs this winter. It was McLaughlin, a junior, who led the way with 26 points in their 67-41 win against Rivendell in the semifinals.
Randolph, which swept the season series against Lyndon and U-32, boasts a potent inside-out combo with guard Levi West and forward Ross Caswell. West had 23 points in the 70-59 semifinal win over No. 3 Lake Region while Caswell had 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Top-seeded Twin Valley (22-1) has yet to win a boys basketball championship.
Its predecessors, Wilmington and Whitingham, which combined to form the new school a decade ago, never did either, making for a championship clash with No. 2 Danville that’s steeped in history.
“Kind of a big deal for us,” Twin Valley coach Chris Brown said. “It’s funny. (The players) know that obviously. We have a couple banners in our gym, runner-ups for state titles. They’ve pointed out that there isn’t one for a basketball championship. They’re really motivated to be the first.”
Led by Kyle Johnson, who pumped in 55 points in a quarterfinal win over West Rutland, and Brett Elliott, the Indians (20-3) ended the Wildcats’ season the last two years.
The Wildcats, with four senior starters, have a catalyst in point guard Colin Lozito (16 ppg, 7 assists) and top-end scorer in Dal Nesbitt (18 ppg) among a balanced unit. Their quest begins today with team breakfast at 6 a.m. before the trip from Wilmington to Barre.
“We’ve been practicing at 6 a.m. all year. That’s nothing for us,” Brown said.