TOWNSHEND -- Following a four-hour bus ride to a playdown game on Wednesday evening, the Richford girls basketball team rode Gabby Coons into the Division 3 quarterfinals.
The sophomore center made a habit of boxing out and yanking down defensive rebounds and also scored a game-high 11 points, leading the ninth-seeded Rockets to a 27-25 victory over host Leland & Gray.
"She does have a nice post game," said Rebels coach Gregg Morrow, whose team finished up with a 9-12 record.
After Tammy Claussen’s beautiful rendition of the national anthem, the action on the court wasn’t so pretty. The fans saw a ton of traveling violations, unforced turnovers, and shots that were way off the mark.
The visitors took a 7-4 lead in the first eight minutes, behind a couple of layups by Coons, another from super sub Hannah Gleason and Johanna Sherrer’s free throw.
Senior forward Alex Morrow carried the Rebels in the second quarter, as she had two steals and eight points -- scoring on a runner, a 12-foot jumper and going 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
The hosts were ahead 14-13 at the intermission.
As the Rockets headed to their locker room, a woman in the Richford stands stopped Coons, gave her a kiss on the cheek and patted her on the back side as if to tell her daughter, "we didn’t come all this way for nothing."
The careless passes continued from both teams in the third quarter, when the visitors outscored the Rebels 6-5 to tie the score at 19-19. Morgan McAllister, Gleason and Coons all had a bucket for Richford, while Ashley Goddard scored all five of Leland & Gray’s points in that eight-minute span on a bunny and three freebies.
After the hosts started the final quarter off with layups from Chelby Nystrom and Haley Buffum, a make from downtown by Richford’s Johanna Sherrer seemed to turn the tide.
Coons would go 1-for-2 from the line and Buffum would later deadlock the score at 25-25 at the 2:30 mark by banking a 17-footer in.
It was a steal and miss by Sherrer that set up the go-ahead bucket for the visitors. Gleason would crash the offensive glass to keep it alive before it wound up in the hands of Coons for a hoop and harm to put Richford up 27-25 with 1:36 left.
The long ride home wasn’t seeming quite so bad for the visitors -- the crowd was loving it and the assistant coach was jumping up and down, despite Coons’ failure to complete the three-point play.
A couple of outside shots down the stretch by the Rebels were off the mark, including a 3 that would have put them ahead and a 15-footer in the final seconds that could have forced overtime.
Morrow finished with 10 points and Goddard netted nine to lead the Rebels. It was the last varsity game for those two, along with 12th graders Natalia Coelho and Nystrom.
"I’m going to miss them. I love them," said the Leland & Gray coach of his seniors.
Shane Covey can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.