The unknown is not how to describe the matchups in today’s Division I high school girls basketball semifinals.
It’s an All-Metro quartet, and that means rematches, familiarity and rivalries. BFA-St. Albans and Essex know each other well. CVU and Rice, without question, certainly do too.
But that shouldn’t quell a pair of juicy games set for University of Vermont’s Patrick Gymnasium this evening.
CVU and Rice square off for the fifth straight year at Patrick, but for the first time without a title hanging in the balance, in Game 1 at 5 p.m. BFA and Essex, each hoping to end title-game appearance droughts, will follow the opener.
The two-time state champion Redhawks own a 69-game winning streak, which includes six regular-season victories and a pair of title-game triumphs over Rice.
“I remember hearing that it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season when I was a player,” CVU coach Ute Otley said. “And when that ends up happening, it’s when a team walks in complacent, and our team cannot be further from that.
“We have a ton of respect for Rice. We always say it’s a great challenge every time we play them.”
The Comets also own the regular-season edge over the Hornets, besting them twice, but Essex coach Shawn Montague says his squad isn’t focused on the past.
“I never really look at it like that. I feel like we are all on even footing even though they beat us twice,” Montague said. “I don’t think we are overmatched.”
The semifinals arrive a week after the quarterfinals, a substantial gap after the grind of the regular season and early playoff rounds.
“It was nice having a week off to figure things out,” Green Knights coach Tim Rice said. “But then again, you usually don’t have this much time so you don’t want to overcoach.”
A glance at the games:
No. 1 Champlain Valley (22-0) vs. No. 5 Rice Memorial (16-6)
• Regular-season meetings: CVU swept both games, 47-35 on Dec. 19 and 49-29 on Jan. 8.
• Recent playoff meeting: The Redhawks won last year’s finals matchup, 35-34, the teams’ fourth straight showdown in the title game.
• Final Four history: The Redhawks, looking for a three-peat, last accomplished by Rice (1999-2001), own a 14-4 all-time mark in semifinal games. CVU ended a long title-game drought in 2013 and holds a 5-9 overall mark in finals. … Rice has a 13-6 record in semifinals, with its last loss in this round coming in 2009 to BFA. Overall, the Green Knights, title winners in 2011 and 2012, are 7-6 on the last day of the season.
• CVU’s leaders: Laurel Jaunich (15.6 points, 6.7 rebounds per game), Sadie Otley (12 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.1 spg), Caitlin Grasso (6.6 ppg), Annabella Pugliese (5.2 rpg).
• Rice’s leaders: Lisa Sulejmani (9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.0 apg), Carolyn Snell (7 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.0 bpg), Jordan Lawrence (7.0 ppg).
Outlook: The emergence of Pugliese has been welcomed production to the 1-2 punch of Jaunich and Otley, the two main holdovers from CVU’s undefeated runs the past two seasons. CVU’s calm demeanor and its depth, Otley said, have been critical when the winning streak was tested, especially against Essex, BFA and Mount Anthony. Shot selection was the “common denominator” in those close calls, Otley said. … Rice will have Sulejmani (ankle) back on the court after missing the quarterfinals, a boost to the squad’s dynamic backcourt. Can Rice ratcheted up the pressure like it did in last year’s final that came down to the final seconds?
No. 2 BFA-St. Albans (19-3) vs. No. 3 Essex (17-5)
• Regular-season meetings: BFA won both games, 46-33 on Jan. 8 and 39-35 on Feb. 5.
• Recent playoff meeting: Essex won the 2006 final, 52-47, over BFA.
• Final Four history: Its first semifinals appearance in six years, when it wrapped a four-year run at Patrick, BFA is in search of its first title in 22 years. The Comets are 7-8 alltime in this round and 2-5 in finals, where they last reached in 2009. … Today’s game will mark Essex’s 29th in the semifinals (17-11 mark) as it chases the program’s 10th title (9-8 overall). The Hornets last made the final four in 2013 and 2012 after a four-year absence.
• BFA’s leaders: Halle Sam-Boudreau (8.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Kimmy Howrigan (9.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Hannah Earl (7 ppg, 2.9 apg)
• Essex’s leaders: Mychaela Harton (11 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg), Taylor Truax (9.0, 5.0 rpg), Alex Esposito (6.0, 6.9 rpg),
• Outlook: Rebounding, headlined by Sam-Boudreau and Howrigan, is BFA’s strength. And it might be a decided advantage against Essex if Truax (shoulder), expected to make her return after a 25-day layoff, is not a factor. The Comets have been steadily consistent most of the season, overcoming the 11-point loss to BHS in the regular-season finale by outlasting the Seahorses in last week’s quarterfinal double-overtime thriller. … The Hornets, meanwhile, rely on defense. Hard-nosed, in-your-face perimeter pressure that has frustrated most teams this winter. Limiting BFA’s second chances might pave the way to victory.
Today at Patrick Gym
D-I girls basketball semifinals
•No. 1 Champlain Valley (22-0) vs. No. 5 Rice Memorial (16-6), 5 p.m.
•No. 2 BFA-St. Albans (19-3) vs. No. 3 Essex (17-5), 7 p.m.