Champlain Valley is in search of perfection — again. Mount Abraham, Thetford and Proctor are also aiming to defend their crowns from a year ago.
Their roads to meet those goals start Tuesday night.
The Vermont high school girls basketball tournament begins with 18 playdowns slated to kick off playoff season.
And as is tradition, here are my predictions — some bold prognostications, some not — for each division.
D-I primer, predictions
The top-seeded Redhawks enter the tournament on a 67-game winning streak, the longest in Division I history. Well-oiled CVU has continued its unblemished run despite graduating star power that included Emily Kinneston, a two-time Free Press Miss Basketball selection, and Kaelyn Kohlasch. Sadie Otley, the daughter’s coach, and Laurel Jaunich might be the state’s best, and Annabelle Pugliese has developed into a serious front-court threat for coach Ute Otley. … BFA-St. Albans, Essex and Mount Anthony have all challenged CVU this winter. A potential semifinal Rice-CVU matchup means the rivals will not meet in the final for a fifth-straight time.
No. 4 U-32 over No. 13 Rutland
No. 2 BFA-St. Albans over No. 15 St. Johnsbury
No. 3 Essex over No. 14 North Country
No. 6 South Burlington over No. 11 Mount Mansfield
No. 1 Champlain Valley over No. 16 Spaulding
No. 9 Brattleboro over No. 8 Burr and Burton;
No. 5 Rice Memorial over No. 12 Colchester
No. 10 Burlington over No. 7 Mount Anthony
Rice over U-32
Burlington over BFA-St. Albans
CVU over Brattleboro
Essex over South Burlington
CVU over Rice
Essex over Burlington
— CVU 51, Essex 35: Redhawks complete third straight perfect season and become first D-I girls program since Rice (1999-2001) to secure a three-peat.
D-II primer, predictions
No. 2 Mount Abraham has been the class of this division the past two seasons. But this year’s tournament is wide-open as legitimate contenders extend all the way down to No. 7 Fair Haven. But mark down Lyndon, the lone D-II school to hand top-seeded Lake Region a defeat in the teams’ split, as the team that could very well slip through a parity-filled and intriguing field.
No. 1 Lake Region over No. 16 Otter Valley
No. 8 BFA-Fairfax over No. 9 Milton
No. 4 Lyndon over No. 13 Randolph
No. 2 Mount Abraham over No. 15 Hartford
No. 7 Fair Haven over No. 10 Harwood
No. 6 Springfield over No. 11 Woodstock
No. 5 Lamoille over No. 12 Vergennes
No. 3 Mill River over No. 14 Middlebury
Lake Region over Fairfax
Lyndon over Lamoille
Fair Haven over Mount Abraham
Springfield over Mill River
Lyndon over Lake Region
Fair Haven over Springfield
— Lyndon 41, Fair Haven 40: After ousting top-seeded Lake Region to reach their first final in program history, the Vikings earn their first title as well in a nervy finish.
D-III primer, predictions
After out-shooting Williamstown last year, No. 1 Thetford can certainly repeat with Michaela Pomeroy leading the Panther charge. But I think the Blue Devils’ long mission to track down a title will finally come to fruition on Feb. 28 at Barre Auditorium.
No. 1 Thetford over No. 16 Poultney
No. 4 Enosburg over No. 13 Hazen
No. 5 Rivendell over No. 12 Bellows Falls
No. 2 Williamstown over No. 15 Northfield
No. 3 Richford over No. 14 Peoples
No. 8 Winooski over No. 9 Windsor
No. 7 Stowe over No. 10 Oxbow
No. 6 Twin Valley over No. 11 Leland & Gray
Thetford over Winooski
Rivendell over Enosburg
Williamstown over Stowe
Richford over Twin Valley
Thetford over Rivendell
Williamstown over Richford
— Williamstown 70, Thetford 65: Narrow title-game defeats in each of the past two seasons drives the Blue Devils, who knock off last year’s nemesis in another tight finish to claim the program’s first crown.
D-IV primer, predictions
Similar to D-II in terms of parity, D-IV is up for grabs. Proctor is chasing a four-peat; Mount St. Joseph hopes to avenge last year’s seven-point loss. Meanwhile, West Rutland earned a season spilt with Proctor and Mount St. Joseph, and Whitcomb-Rochester also went 1-1 against the Golden Horde and hasn’t lost to a D-IV team in six weeks. In other words, any team’s tournament.
No. 5 Chelsea over No. 12 Concord
No. 7 Craftsbury over No. 10 Mid Vermont Christian
No. 6 Arlington over No. 11 Cabot
No. 8 Twinfield over No. 9 Blue Mountain
No. 4 West Rutland over No. 13 South Royalton
No. 2 Whitcomb-Rochester over No. 15 Black River
No. 3 Proctor over No. 14 Danville
No. 1 Mount St. Joseph over Twinfield
West Rutland over Chelsea
Whitcomb-Rochester over Craftsbury
Proctor over Arlington
Mount St. Joseph over West Rutland
Whitcomb-Rochester over Proctor
— Whitcomb-Rochester 57, Mount St. Joseph 55 (OT): After dispatching three-time defending champion Proctor in the semifinals, the cooperative team referred to as Whitchester snares the crown in pulsating matchup with MSJ.