By RUSSELL JONES
BRANDON — The House of Noise was rocking on Monday night as the Otters of Otter Valley girls’ basketball team took on the Proctor Phantoms on 1961 Night. The 4-8 Otters, who were wearing the pre-merger Brandon Bison throwback jerseys, got off to a hot start but eventually stalled offensively against a fast Proctor front court. Proctor, 9-3 coming into the contest, won the game with a final score of 56-43 improving to 10 wins for the season.
In the fall of 1961 the Brandon and Pittsford high schools merged to form Otter Valley Union High School. On Monday, the school commemorated that momentous year with old-style uniforms.
Wearing the blue and red of the 1961 Brandon Bison, the OV girls came out fired up and took a lead early with outstanding inside play by juniors Livia Bernhardt and Leah Pinkowski.
“Leah had an amazing game for us,” OV coach Kelly Trayah said. “She’s physical and consistent in making her shots.”
Pinkowski led the Otters in scoring with 16 points and was a commanding force down low leading to many second-chance points from offensive rebounds. Bernhardt finished the game with 9 points.
The Otters had a 10-14 lead going into the second quarter and showed no signs of stopping. Good passing by the guards led to easy passes to the bigs in the paint and Pinkowski was near unstoppable close to the rim.
Going in to the half, Proctor trailed by seven with the score 20-27 and Proctor had to make adjustments before play began in the third.
“I knew we needed to shorten their passes,” Proctor coach Chris Hughes said. “They were getting easy passes inside and we needed to limit those. They were getting players in the post whenever they wanted. They are a bigger team than us and we can’t allow them to get the ball down low that easy.”
The Proctor girls came out of the halftime break and did just that. They played a stronger frontcourt zone that stalled the OV guards leading to forced passes, turnovers, and fouls.
“We were forcing stuff and that led to bad angles feeding the post,” Trayah said. “They have some really quick guards but we’re bigger inside. The plan was to just keep getting the ball to Pinkowski in the post.”
Proctor steadily made their comeback through the third quarter until they tied the game with 5:27 to play in the third quarter. On the very next series, sophomore Julia Eastman took off down the court for the Otters before junior Allie Almond stole the ball at the half-court line. Eastman missed the layup on the other end but was immediately followed up by freshman Maggie McKearin as the Phantoms took their first lead of the game.
Proctor had the lead 39-34 going into the last quarter of play, and never slowed down.
“We had a lot of energy on defense,” Hughes said. “That led to better possessions when we had the ball. We defended their passes better and that led to more opportunities for us down the line.”
Otter Valley struggled at the foul line in a game that was dominated by foul calls late.
“We went 0 for 10 at the line in the second half,” Trayah said. “The game would have been a lot closer if we could have made half those shots.”
For Proctor, junior Maddie Flanders led the way in scoring with 19 points. Almond had 16 points, making four three-pointers. McKearin contributed 13 points for her team.
The Otters will take on Hartford next, which Trayah called a “winnable game.”
“They also have two very good guards who are very fast so we’ll need to lock them down,” Trayah said. “Again, we’re bigger inside than them and we’ll need to use that to our advantage.”
The Phantoms will take on Arlington in a tough matchup on the road for the Proctor girls.
“It’s always tough to go on the road after an emotional win like this one,” Hughes said. “We’ll need to match their energy early to stay in the game. If you don’t match the energy of the other team, you’ll end up being down like we were tonight. If you’re always playing from behind, eventually you won’t be able to overcome that.”