North Country’s Riann Fortin blocks the attempt of Enosburg’s Emily Adams with the Falcons ahead and the final seconds of overtime ticking off the clock Friday. In addition to the game-sealing block, Fortin led all scorers with 18 points and hit the shot to force overtime and the eventual game-winner (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)

Falcons Steal Home Court Advantage From Enosburg With OT Win

By Ben Kaufmann
County Courier

ENOSBURG FALLS: If there was one low point from the third edition of Enosburg’s battle with North Country, it was the realization that a potential game four won’t come in front of a sellout crowd at Barre Auditorium. 

That fact was established before the Falcons came to Enosburg for a rubber match on Friday night, knowing the winner would grab the No. 2 seed for the Division II playoffs and host all games until the championship round in Barre. North Country’s Riann Fortin scored with 10 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, then put in the game-winner with 90 seconds left in the extra frame and blocked Enosburg’s equalizer attempt to provide North Country with the triumph.

Fortin finished with a game-high 18 points and the satisfaction of knowing she helped her Falcons secure home-court advantage for the upcoming playoffs. That could well include a fourth game against Enosburg, which will finish the regular season ranked No. 3 in Division II.

“The Fortin girl, she had something to prove tonight and that’s the one I’ll remember playing against,” said Enosburg coach Gary Geddes.

Friday’s showdown, coming on the heels of a February Falcon win in Newport and a victory by Enosburg at home this past Tuesday, was an absolute masterclass between two talented teams who know each other well. With 32 minutes available to determine who would be seeded third and who would be second and host a potential semifinal rematch, the two didn’t disappoint.

Enosburg, despite falling behind 11-0 in the first quarter, got 10 points apiece from Emily Adams, Allison Bowen and freshman Lily Robtoy. Sophie Burns scored 12 in helping her Hornets charge back into position to win the game late.

“I just told the girls, nothing to hang your head about, you battled back,” Geddes said. “And they made a couple of shots, we didn’t. That’s the game.”

In response to a fiery North Country start, sparked by two quick Hailey Pothier baskets, and-one plays from Bowen and Adams helped the Hornets end the first quarter down just 12-10. Bowen, Robtoy and Megan Severance began an Enosburg charge which gave the hosts a 20-17 lead midway through the second before four more Pothier points allowed the Falcons to enter halftime up 23-22.

The teams traded punches in the third. Even with sharpshooter McKenna Marsh relegated to the bench after picking up her fourth foul midway through the frame, North Country was able to extend its lead and entered the fourth quarter up 37-32.

Once again, Enosburg bounced right back. Emma Gervais hit a free-throw then a three-pointer to begin the Hornet comeback. Gervais would also hit a crucial go-ahead three late in the fourth, scoring all seven of her points in that frame to keep her Hornets alive.

“Emma hit a couple of big threes for us in a timely manner,” Geddes said.

Some good fortune aided the Hornet comeback attempt further. Robtoy drew a foul and hit both ends of a one-and-one, then was awarded another one-and-one after the officials determined North Country had been too aggressive in boxing out on her last shot. The Falcon bench took exception, and having just complained vigorously about an out-of-bounds call, the officials ran out of patience and awarded a technical foul. When all was said and done, Enosburg had made three of five free-throws and had a 39-37 lead and the ball. For good measure, Adams put back an offensive rebound to give the hosts a 41-37 lead with just over five minutes to play.

Sometimes getting a little fiery in defense of one’s team is worth the conceded technical free-throws, and Friday ended up being one of those cases. Adrianna Chaput hit a three when the Falcons finally got the ball back, then Cora Nadeau did the same to put North Country ahead 43-41. Gervais responded with her second three of the quarter and Robtoy hit two free throws to return a 46-43 lead to Enosburg.

Fortin began to take over, posting up for two points then adding a free-throw to knot the score at 46-46 with a minute to go in the fourth. Adams grabbed an offensive rebound for Enosburg and, though she wasn’t in a great position to shoot, was only potentially hindered by Marsh. Sitting on four fouls and with overtime possible, Marsh pulled back to avoid a foul-out and Adams scored from the tough angle to give Enosburg a 48-46 lead with 42 seconds left. At the other end, of course, Fortin put back a rebound with 10 seconds left to even things up at 48-48. Enosburg’s shot to win was off the mark.

For what it’s worth, both Marsh and Bowen were in foul trouble for most of the second half after the two had been matched up frequently on Tuesday. It was enjoyable to watch the pair, both with four fouls, waiting together to re-enter the game. The pair were at midcourt, smiling and talking – presumably betting on who would last longer. If that was the case, Marsh won as she was still on the floor at game’s end and Bowen fouled out in overtime. 

Overtime was an adventure, a showcase of the kind of magic these two can produce – and hopefully will one more time this year. Burns assisted an Adams lay-up to kick things off in Enosburg’s favor. A Pothier free-throw was followed by a Fortin jumper from the elbow to give the Falcons a 51-50 lead. 

Then it was Nadeau’s turn: An excellent floor general all day, Nadeau pulled up out of nowhere for the kind of three Kyrie Irving wouldn’t have the confidence to take. Of course, she made it and put North Country up 54-50 with two minutes left in overtime.

Burns countered with a beautiful spin move and lay-up to get Enosburg within two, but Fortin calmly posted up at the other end to return the Falcon lead to four points. Burns hit two free throws with 1:06 left on the clock to pull her Hornets within two, down 56-54. A missed Falcon free-throw was rebounded by Adams and though Enosburg missed its shot, Severance and Burns teamed up to corral the rebound and get a timeout with three seconds left. The inbound went to Adams and she had a good look to tie, but Fortin made one last stellar play and tipped the shot to give the No. 2 seed to North Country.

“We battled back and did some good things,” Geddes said with a shrug after the final buzzer Friday. “We had a couple of costly turnovers here and there, but you’re going to have that. The girls, I can’t ask any more, they gave everything they’ve got. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, tonight we lost.”

Countering the 12 points from Burns, seven from Gervais, two from Severance and 10 apiece from Adams, Robtoy and Bowen, North Country was led by the 18 from Fortin. Nadeau finished with 14 and Pothier scored 12. Marsh added seven, Chaput had three and Emma Fortin scored two points.

Now, the teams set off on a mission to earn a fourth game against each other. Playoff pairings will be released Monday and each side will learn its path through the postseason. But Friday’s victory ensured the road to Barre must run through Newport, and Geddes is hopeful his team will be there for one more installment from this great rivalry.

“We’re evenly matched, you can tell. This was like a playoff game,” he said, later adding that he aiming for one more chance to do battle with Falcon coach Sarah Roy. “That’s what I just told Sarah, I’m hoping we’ll see you in a few weeks.”