WESTMINSTER >> Gail Christmas, who was admired and loved by her students when she was a reading support teacher at Bellows Falls Union High School, died of pancreatic cancer nearly two years ago.
On Tuesday night, the community that Christmas worked in came together to help put an end to the disease.
In the annual Coaches Versus Cancer varsity girls basketball game, which uses its admission and 50-50 raffle money to benefit the American Cancer Society, Springfield pulled away late to beat the host Terriers 39-34.
"This night means a lot to me. Some of my good friends have died of cancer. I'm willing to help in any way that I can," said Bellows Falls coach Joe Goodhue, who noted that his wife and sister have also been diagnosed with cancer.
After his team took a 23-13 lead to the intermission, Goodhue could only watch as the visiting Cosmos opened the second half with a 10-0 rally to pull even. Brooke Willey and Elizabeth MacKenzie, who were at the front of Springfield's full-court press, scored all of their team's points during the surge.
"I'm not sure if it's still that we're young or not, but we just implode. We missed foul shots and we made passes when we knew we shouldn't have," stated Goodhue. "But I have to give credit to Springfield."
Hannah Kelly scored inside for the hosts and then Springfield's Ari Rowe answered with a bucket on an inbounds play, before the rivals went to the fourth quarter deadlocked at 25-25.
With the excited fans helping the refs with foul, traveling and three-second calls, the defenses took a break early in the final frame. Abbe Cravinho had a couple of fast-break finishes for the hosts, while the Cosmos got a 3 from Hannah Crosby and a layup by Willey to go up 30-29 with 5:19 remaining.
Moments later, Willey — a trusted ball handler, good perimeter shooter and tenacious defender — picked up her fifth foul when pushing a defender away while bringing the ball up the court.
With their playmaker now on the bench, the Cosmos somehow went on a 9-2 run to take control. A Crosby layup off of a steal, Aunna Parker's putback and MacKenzie's trifecta from the top were the highlights in that span.
Cravinho then beat the buzzer with a 3 to make the final score 39-34.
"She (Cravinho) played really well and she is only a freshman," Goodhue told the Reformer. "I thought Alyson Bashaw played some really good defense."
Cravinho led all scorers with 21 points and Kelly followed with a dime's worth. Willey and MacKenzie each scored 11 points to pace the winners.
After BF student Christian Terry played the national anthem, Willey and MacKenzie each connected from downtown to help Springield to a 10-8 lead. Playing a 2-3 zone, the Terriers got steals from Murphy Hicks, Cravinho, Bashaw and Kelly in the first quarter.
With their school's former reading support teacher cheering them on from up above, Bellows Falls outscored its foes 15-3 in the second quarter to take a 10-point lead. Each wearing pink socks on the special night, Cravinho had two bunnies and a make from beyond the arc, Kelly scored in the paint three different times, and Hicks added a deep deuce.
But the Cosmos would start the third quarter using a 2-2-1 press, which led to easy baskets by Willey and MacKenzie that allowed the visitors to pull even at 23-23.
Division 2 Standings
Mill River 9-3
Fair Haven 7-4
Lakes Region 5-3
Otter Valley 5-6
Mt. Abraham 3-8
Bellows Falls 3-7