Pressure? What pressure? Why should a 49-game win streak and a quest for a third straight Division III Vermont high school boys basketball championship be pressure?
Certainly the Blue Devils of Williamstown didn’t feel any pressure at The Aud on Saturday night. They didn’t feel it; they applied it.
As in offensive pressure and rebounding pressure and defensive pressure, all of which culminated in an 88-69 victory over Randolph to bring the high school basketball season to a rousing conclusion.
“We didn’t really talk about the win streak or past championships. We just talked about today’s game, that we had to go and get the job done and that’s what we did,” said Williamstown’s Devin Duff, who accounted for 21 points.
“This is the game they wanted to win. The other 49 happened but this is the one they were after,” Blue Devils coach Jack Carrier said.
It took a little time for top-seeded Williamstown (23-0) to get No. 2 Randolph (21-3) under control. The Galloping Ghosts had a nice 17-game win streak and had lost by only two on the Blue Devils’ court this year, so a 20-18 Williamstown lead after one quarter was not unexpected.
“We knew that we had to come out with full intensity because we knew they would be amped up for this game,” said Williamstown’s Jason Manwaring, who scored 21 points. “They came out amped up for our home game against them and we only won by two so we knew we had to step it up big time.”
In the second, though, the Blue Devils launched a 10-point run at mid-quarter and finished the half leading by 52-41 behind Manwaring’s 16 points and Duff’s 13, which included three 3-pointers.
“As soon as my first one went down, I was, man, I’m going to try a second one. When my second one went in, I said I think I’m good tonight,” Duff said.
Randolph was playing pretty well, though coach Jeremy Rilling said, “I don’t know that it was going that well when you give up 52 points defensively.
“Offensively, things were working really well. Levi (West) came out kind of hot, we were getting the ball inside to Ross (Caswell),” Rilling said. “Defensively, they shot the lights out and we were slow getting back in transition and that put us in a 11-point hole … at halftime and when you give a team as good as Williamstown that much room, it’s hard to come back on them.”
“They came out with a lot of intensity to put 52 points up in the first half,” said Carrier of his players. “To give up 41, we talked about that. We needed to settle back on defense. We seemed to match up better man-to-man than we did in the half-court trap and it worked.”
Williamstown systematically expanded the lead to 74-51 through three quarters by dominating the game inside and out.
“We don’t have a lot of size but we have guys that can play with size,” Carrier said.
Hunter McLaughlin added 16 points for Williamstown, which sank nine 9-points and went 13-for-16 from the free throw line. Caswell led Randolph with 22 points, five in the second half, with Brandon Keyes scoring 15 and Dylan Jacobs scoring 10.