Story by Ben Kaufmann
Photos by Liz Snider and Ben Kaufmann
SWANTON – A tough two weeks in Franklin County continued for Vergennes on Wednesday with a 59-55 loss at Missisquoi.
The winless Commodores (0-10) have a potent lineup which makes their record mind-boggling when watching them at their best. Two weeks after losing at Enosburg, VUHS was tied with Missisquoi (8-3) at 49-49 with less than three minutes to go. In the last five days, the Commodores have been in but ultimately lost games at BFA-Fairfax, BFA-St. Albans and now MVU.
“They’ve had a lot of close games,” said MVU coach Matt Walker. “I know their record doesn’t reflect it but they’ve been in a lot of close games.”
“They have four, five, six seniors and they expected a better season. They certainly fought hard tonight. I don’t know what they shot but they certainly shot the ball well tonight.”
On Wednesday, MVU used the closing power it has gained through eight games thus far decided by fewer than 10 points to put away Vergennes. Even in the face of nine Commodore threes – including three in two minutes in the third quarter from Ben Curtis, Missisquoi remained calm late.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this year,” Walker said. “The close games that we’ve had probably help; we stick with it, we don’t get rattled.”
Matthew Curtis played some of his best basketball of the year, matching teammate Patrick Walker with a team-high 16 points for the T-Birds. Gabe Unwin poured in 12 and grabbed a game-clinching rebound with his team up 58-55 and ten seconds remaining. He got the ball to Walker, who was fouled and hit one of two free-throws to close the game out.
As Vergennes hit threes at a frustrating rate, Unwin did his best to match with a trio of makes from beyond the arc while Walker and Curtis worked inside against a Commodore team with almost no size inside.
The Thunderbirds hit 8 of 14 free-throw attempts on the night, effectively taking away the best chance for Vergennes to close small but constant deficits. MVU led 15-13 after the first, 29-25 at the half and 41-39 after the third. Except for a brief spell knotted at 49-49, the visitors never tied or led in the second half.
Unwin broke that sole deadlock with his final three of the night. Following a pair of VUHS free-throws, Curtis used a perfect pump-fake in the post to put MVU up 54-51. Two more free-throws (Vergennes was equally strong at the line, making 9 of 12) brought the Commodores within one, but Ethan Creller hit a three for the biggest of his seven points. That make gave Missisquoi a 57-53 lead which Unwin and Walker made sure to protect through the final seconds.
Curtis led Vergennes, and all scorers, with 19 points. Behind Walker, Matthew Curtis, Unwin and Creller, Owen Charlston and Caleb Johnston each hit a three for the T-Birds and Colbey Theberge finished with two points.
Against a hungry Vergennes team, coach Walker was happy to see his team pull out another close win. He knows that, especially with a rematch against the BFA-St. Albans team which beat his Thunderbirds at the buzzer on December 27th looming next Tuesday, games against teams with deceivingly poor records can be dangerous.
“We’re lucky not to be that trap game, looking forward to BFA next week and thinking about that big rivalry game,” he said. “It’s this classic situation for a trap and you’ve got to be proud of the guys for kind of holding on and taking care of business.”
Missisquoi will want to continue to avoid looking ahead to the Bobwhites for a few more days. Saturday brings a trip to Middlebury (6-5) to face a Tiger team which has wins over Mt. Abraham – which beat the Thunderbirds already, Division I Colchester and a 19-point win over these Commodores.