BY GENE DELORENZO
BARRE — The West Rutland Golden Horde girl’s basketball team won the school’s second state championship in Division IV girls basketball in the past four years by defeating rival Proctor, 57-56, at the Barre Auditorium this past Saturday. The Phantoms had defeated the Westsiders twice during the regular season – the only losses for the West Rutland team.
Saturday’s game had more twists and turns than a drive to Lake Hortonia. Each team showed great versatility and offensive balance in attempting to subdue their familiar foe. In the end, it all came down to senior West Rutland Anna Cyr picking up a loose ball on the right wing with 54 seconds to go, taking two bounces to her left with her right hand, and draining a 20-foot three-point shot to give West Rutland a 57-56 lead.
West Rutland would go on to miss the front end of three consecutive free throw attempts, but Proctor returned the favor with a turnover, a missed layup and a long desperation shot before the game was history. West Rutland – champions again! But just barely.
Proctor had battled back in the fourth period hitting five three-point shots (on seven attempts) to overcome an eight-point deficit that had reached 38-30 midway through the third quarter. And West Rutland, after an early deficit of their own (Proctor jumped out to a 7-2 lead), had dictated much of the early game by combining a rebounding advantage at both ends of the court along with a flat 3-2 zone that appeared to be designed to limit the penetration of Proctor’s senior guard Maggie McKearin.
Although McKearin would go on to score 24 points, West Rutland’s trapping zone forced many turnovers and limited the Proctor offense in the half court for much of the game. For one of the few times all year, Proctor committed more turnovers than their opponent. Proctor would have 19 turnovers and West Rutland 16.
During the middle portion of the game, when Proctor was trailing 36-23, the Phantoms turned it over 12 times in 42 possessions while making only one three-point shot. The team regrouped, however, and In the final 24 possessions, they committed just four turnovers and made six three-pointers.
Instead of relying on McKearin’s drives into the middle of West Rutland’s condensed trapping zone, the Phantoms made the appropriate adjustment and began reversing the ball after the initial double-team and found available shooters. Laci French and Meghan Cole have been cool-as-cucumbers all year and Saturday was no different. They buried shot after shot and soon Proctor was back in the lead at 56-54 with a minute to go. They had even forced WRHS into fouling to get the ball back.
Proctor, however, proved to be more efficient from three-point land (8 of 14 for the game) than from the foul line (just 8 of 17).
Remarkably, but for one three-point shot with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter, Peyton Guay, West Rutland’s leading scorer, would not score in the second half. With Anna Cyr and Kenna Wright-Chapman the primary handlers out front, Guay was negated on the wing and did little to affect the eventual outcome.
Big treys by Wright-Chapman and Cyr, along with hoops by Arianna Coombs, Cyr, and Mallory Hogan put the Golden Horde ahead, 54-53, with just under three minutes to play.
Proctor’s French would then hit her third three of the quarter with 1:56 to play to retake the lead at 56-54. Then, after a WRHS miss and resultant foul, Proctor would have a chance to build the lead even further.
But a subsequent miss at the line would set up Cyr for her game-changing heroics, hitting the three and taking the 57-56 lead.
But the game was far from over with just under a minute to play. Proctor had three more tries with the ball after West Rutland misfired on three consecutive front ends of foul line attempts, but could not score.
McKearin got the ball and drove to the basket with a nifty Euro-step move, but the ball hit the rim and bounced out as West Rutland rebounded, missed on a foul shot and a last-second desperation shot from Proctor from 70 feet was right on target but fell short.
McKearin led all scorers with 24. French added 12, Jenna Davine 8, Isabel Grebs 6 and Meghan Cole also had 6 on her two three-pointers.
For West Rutland, Cyr had 17, Guay 15, Arianna Coombs and Isabel Lanfear, 8 each, Mallory Hogan 4 and Isabella Coombs had 2.
West Rutland finished the season at 22-2, while Proctor ended with an 18-2 record.