By Ben Kaufmann
County Courier

ENOSBURG – With the battle for home-court advantage in the playoffs more important than ever, Enosburg got help from all over on Tuesday night in defeating North Country, 39-29, to jump to second place with one game left in the regular season.

The Hornets (5-1) entered Tuesday in third place in Division II, one spot behind the Falcons (5-2). After the contest, Enosburg was in second place and the Falcons had fallen to fourth, behind Spaulding. Tuesday’s game was a late addition to the schedule but Enosburg and North Country will meet again to close the season on Friday. That contest was already scheduled and now offers the Hornets the ability to secure home-court until the championship round with another win.

“We hold our own destiny in our hands,” said Enosburg coach Gary Geddes. “But either way, these games are preparing us for the playoffs. That’s a hell of a team.”

Avenging a loss to the Falcons earlier this season, Enosburg was the first team this year to hold North Country under 40 points and decided to hold them under 30 for good measure. Contributions on the night came from all over the roster.

Sophie Burns’ 10 points, three assists and zero turnovers and Emily Adams’ eight points and six rebounds paced Enosburg. The pair also scored Enosburg’s final eight points, including four of four free-throw attempts by Burns in the final minute to ice the game. It’s a given at this point in the year that Enosburg will get good nights out of Burns and Adams, but toppling a team like North Country requires a deeper effort.

Megan Severance was phenomenal at both ends of the floor. She was tasked with guarding Falcon sharpshooter Makenna Marsh and held her to nine points on the night, including just two across the final three quarters. With the Hornets a bit shaky to open the game, Severance was the lone scorer for Enosburg, notching all six of her team’s points in a frame they lost 13-6.

“Megan got off to a good start,” Geddes said. “She played good defense on Marsh and kept us in it in that first quarter until we got our feet under us.”

Following a 10-second violation on its first possession, the Hornets had a tough time getting into a groove and looked doomed to repeat some of the ugliness from a 51-43 loss at Newport in February.

“I thought we were maybe a little intimidated by them in the first quarter but then we settled in great,” Geddes said, noting that his girls got most of Tuesday’s 13 turnovers out of the way in the opening minutes. “Tonight was a different story. We didn’t turn the ball over a lot, at least as much. Up there we had 20 turnovers and it led to a lot of easy points.”

Another North Country threat was neutralized well by sophomore Allison Bowen as she held Riann Fortin to just two points. Bowen also hit a long jumper to knot the score at 20-20 just prior to halftime and another to kick off an 8-0 run which gave Enosburg a 28-22 lead at the end of the third quarter. Bowen’s three-pointer midway through the fourth negated three opening points from the Falcons and set the hosts up to hold their lead the rest of the way. She finished with seven points in addition to her defensive duties.

“I thought Allie played the best on (Riann Fortin),” Geddes said. “That’s probably the best all-around game she’s had as a varsity player. That Fortin girl is tough.”

Michaela Chase scored all four of her points and Erin Diette notched both of hers in that massive second quarter which saw the Hornets turn a seven-point deficit into a 20-20 halftime scoreline. And Enosburg freshman Lily Robtoy, who handled the ball frequently and with poise against North Country’s strong backcourt, was crucial in helping the Hornets take a 28-22 lead into the fourth quarter. Robtoy assisted a jumper by Adams, blocked a North Country shot at the other end, then made a jumper of her own to close the sequence and extend Enosburg’s lead heading into the final quarter.

“She can handle the ball, she can play good defense, she hit a couple of big shots for us,” Geddes said of Robtoy. “She plays above freshman.”

The shots were all there when Enosburg needed them and there aren’t many questions about the Hornet defense which held the Falcons to 29 points on Tuesday. Coming into the game, North Country was averaging 54.17 points per game and had only been held below 50 by Division I BFA-St. Albans.

The stage is now set for Friday’s 7:00 tipoff with plenty to play for. An Enosburg win should secure second place, which is vital this year with the better seed hosting playoff games until the championship round in Barre. In past years, the semifinals and finals have been held in Barre, so the difference between No. 2 and No. 3 was less important in terms of the overall playoff picture. Spaulding moved into the No. 3 slot following Tuesday’s result but will have a tough time picking up points in its regular-season finale against Division I juggernaut CVU on Thursday.

North Country can climb right back up with a win on Friday in the rubber match. Both teams are aware the likelihood of another meeting is high. It may be in Enosburg, it may be in Newport, or it could come in Barre.

Asked about both teams’ eagerness to add Tuesday’s game when the availability presented itself, Geddes said with a smile that he’d play the Falcons four times if he could. Depending on Friday’s result and the way the postseason shakes out, he just might get his wish.