BARRE — The Oxbow Olympians’ magic carpet ride has some legs left.
The No. 8 Olympians notched their second upset of the Division III tournament with a 40-33 victory over No. 5 Green Mountain in Thursday’s semifinals at Barre Auditorium.
The 10-13 Olympians will play for their first title since 2012 on Saturday night against No. 2 Thetford. “They’re starting to play with confidence — not cocky — confidence; and that’s been the key,” said coach Barry Emerson.
Coincidentally, the Olympians’ second loss this year to Thetford in the penultimate game of Oxbow’s regular season was the turning point in a 7-13 campaign, said Emerson.
“We put together a real good half,” he said.
The Olympians devised a good game plan after watching videos of their last playoff opponent, No. 1 Hazen, then pulled off the victory to punch their ticket to Barre Thursday night.
“The kids were confident,” said Emerson.
Emma Parkin had 10 points, Kaysea Neil eight, Melanie Neil seven and Mariah Shumway six for Oxbow.
It was a tough pill to swallow for a veteran Chieftains team (eight seniors) that finished the year at 16-6.
GM had to play virtually the entire game without Hannah Buffum, who aggravated the gimpy right ankle that kept her out of the Chieftains’ last game. The big forward went out only 16 seconds into play and did not return. Veteran guard Paige Karl fouled out with 1:50 left while GM was trying to mount a late comeback.
GM’s series of 3-point shots went for naught in the final minutes, when Oxbow finally padded the lead from the foul line.
Karl was held to three points. Annie Lamson led GM with 12, followed by Rachael Guerra and Madison Wilson with six apiece.
The game was fast-paced, with as many mistakes as standout plays; Oxbow survived 24 turnovers to GM’s 19.
The Olympians took over the lead for good when Parkin put together a six-point third period. Her off-balance bank shot tied things at 20-20 and, after Wilson’s layup off a nice Karl dish established a 23-20 Chieftains lead, the Olympians scored the period’s final nine points.
Parkin drew Oxbow with a point with a stickback and put the Olympians on top with a driving layup. She then led Lauren Wright to the basket with a nice lead pass and Arianna Bolles’ trey made it 29-23.
Back-to-back baskets by Melanie Neil pumped up the margin to 33-25 in the fourth.
GM drew to within 35-33 on two Lamson free throws and a trey from the top of the arc by Guerra with 1:28 left, causing some anxious moments for an Oxbow team that missed its first six free throws of the fourth period. But Oxbow made five of its last eight, which was good enough against a Chieftains team that was cold from the outside in the final moments, missing twice with a chance to tie the game or take the lead.