By Anthony Labor
County Courier

ENOSBURG FALLS: Owen McKinstry is starting to find a knack of producing late-game heroics for the Enosburg boys basketball team. He scored the game-winning 3 in the season finale against BFA-St. Albans at the buzzer and he hit another buzzer-beater to tie the game during the team’s Div. III playdown round game on Wednesday against Peoples. 

With the seventh-seeded Hornets down 49-46 with four seconds remaining in regulation, McKinstry took an inbound pass and ran the length of the floor and sunk a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. 

In overtime, Enosburg hit five free throws and its defense stood tall not giving up any points on its way to a 54-49 win in a game that saw the team down 12 early on. Shea Howrigan sealed the deal for the Hornets, drawing a foul on a fast break steal, draining both free-throws with one second remaining.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to move forward,” said Enosburg coach Chad Lovelette. “It wasn’t looking good early on, but Owen made the shots he had to at the end tonight just like he did against BFA St. Albans. 

McKinstry also set Enosburg up to be in a position to hit the game-tying 3 at the end of regulation. After Peoples went ahead 48-44 with 15 seconds to go, he drove hard to the basket putting in a quick layup to make it a 48-46 game with five seconds to go. A quick foul put Peoples at the foul line where they missed the front end of two free throws and sunk the second setting up McKinstry’s game-tying 3 at the buzzer. He finished the game with 14 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. 

Shea Howrigan sunk four free-throws in overtime to lead the Hornets in the extra period and finished with a game-high 16 points, which included four 3s. Gavin Combs added 11 points and had a big third quarter where he had seven of the team’s 16 points. 

Nathaniel Robtoy and Devyn Gleason each finished with five points, while Dan Antillon had two and Kamden Lovelette had one. 

The Hornets struggled out of the gate, as they fell behind 15-3 into the second quarter, but battled back to make it a 17-17 game by halftime. 

“Not much went right for us to start the game,” said Lovelette. “Which was crazy being the first playoff game and we had to go full-court to get some energy into the team and that seemed to get us into the game. Shea Howrigan basically shot us back into the game in the first half.”

Peoples started to pull away early in the fourth quarter, as it extended its lead to 39-33 with just over five minutes to play. McKinstry then hit four consecutive free throws to make it a 39-37 game. 

Peoples hit a 3 to make it a 42-37 game followed by a basket by Combs on a nice assist from Howrigan to make it a one-possession game again before Howrigan hit a 3 to tie it 42-all. 

Back-to-back baskets by Peoples gave it a 46-42 lead with 23 seconds left in the game before McKinstry stole an inbound pass and flipped to Nathaniel Robtoy, who made the easy layup to make it 46-44 with 20 seconds to go. Another Peoples basket led to McKinstry’s heroics late in the game to give the Hornets the opportunity to pull away in overtime. 

Enosburg (5-4) moves on to face No. 2 Hazen, who advanced after Stowe had to forfeit its playdown round game. It will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal game, which Enosburg won 66-55. 

Shea Howrigan draws a last second foul after stealing the ball in overtime, sealing the deal for the hornets with two free-throws. (Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier)

“It’s exciting getting the opportunity to go and play against Hazen on Saturday,” said Lovelette. “They are a really good team, but we know how to play them. They basically have the same lineup they did last year, so we know what we are going to see from them and we know they are going to try and get some revenge from last year.”

Editor’s note: Gregory J. Lamoureux contributed to the reporting of this story.