EAST MONTPELIER — The U-32 boys basketball team earned local bragging rights for the 2019-2020 regular season season with Thursday’s 55-52 victory over Montpelier
In a hard-fought see-saw battle, the Raiders held on to win at the end. U-32 is now in control of second place in Division II behind Fair Haven, while Solons drop to third place.
“It was a hard game for us,” said U-32’s Owen Kellington, who led his team in scoring with 24 points. “It was a huge crowd, a lot of noise, lots of cheering and it was very hard to stay in the moment and stay focused and run our stuff, but as the game progressed we got better doing it.”
Anthony Engelhard also had a huge game for the Raiders with 19 points. Other top scorers for U-32 were Carter Pelzel (six points) and Aiden Hawkins (five points).
Tyler Ricker led the Solons in scoring with 17 points. Other top scorers were teammates Jonah Cattaneo (13 points), Leo Riby-Williams (10 points) and Will Bruzzese and Ben Gambill (five points apiece).
U-32 led 14-12 after the first quarter, but Montpelier dominated on the boards with nine rebounds (five offensive and four defensive). Engelhard lit up the crowd with two 3-pointers, but Cattaneo and Gambill responded 3-pointers at the other end.
Ricker nailed three 3-pointers and Gambill scored five points to give Montpelier a 30-28 lead going into the half. Englehard kept U-32 in the game with 12 points in the second quarter.
The Raiders came out strong in the third quarter and Kellington picked up where Engelhard left off. He had a terrific quarter, scoring 10 points while Engelhard added six. By the time the quarter was over, U-32 led 45-39.
Montpelier coach Nick Foster attributed the six-point deficit to a communication breakdown on the team’s defense.
“You have to talk well, especially in an environment like tonight’s,” Foster said. “We didn’t do enough to guard a good team.”
The Solons got into foul trouble in the fourth quarter. Riby-Williams and Isaak Donahue fouled out and the Raiders were in the bonus. Aside from a 3 point shot by Kellington, U-32’s remaining points were scored at the free throw line (seven points) and they won the quarter 14-13.
When asked what kept the Raiders in the lead down the stretch, U-32 coach Dan Gauthier said it all came down to togetherness.
“Before we took the court, we talked about wanting to be the more together team,” Gauthier said. “I felt the guys were as together as they have been all season.”