ST. ALBANS – Two teams on very opposite ends of the experience spectrum faced off Monday night, as the BFA-St. Albans girls’ basketball team hosted a very young Missisquoi team for its season-opener.
The Comets, coming off a championship run from a year ago, started the game on a 17-0 run and didn’t allow the Thunderbirds to score a point until over a minute into the second quarter.
From there, the Comets kept using its well-balanced offense and strong defense to come away with a decisive 55-19 win.
“As a coach, the unselfishness of the entire team is something you love to see,” said BFA coach Shawn Earl. “These girls are way ahead of where they were last year at this point in the year.
Eight of BFA’s players scored in the game with Hannah Earl (eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals) and Kelly Laggis (eight points, seven rebounds) helping the team jump to the early lead with strong play in the first half.
Lilly McAllister also had a strong all-around game coming away with 11 points, four rebounds and five steals, while playing strong defense all night. Along with McAllister, Andi Esenler had a game-high 11 points with all of them coming in the second half.
The Comets’ bench saw quality minutes as well with Katie LaBelle tallying four points and seven rebounds, while Elena Clark added seven points.
“The beautiful thing about this team is we have a philosophy that there is no one person that will win us games,” said Earl. “We play off each other and in every game we could have one player go off for a few minutes and then another person the next few minutes and the girls have really bought into that philosophy. They get just as excited seeing one of their teammates be successful as they are in their own successes.”
The quality players the Comets have on the bench will be something that will benefit them all season, as they will look to play a full-court press defense at some point through every game.
The fresh legs will help them keep the full-court defense going strong throughout games.
“I think every team is going to get a taste of our full-court press this year,” said Earl. “We play strong defense, get turnovers and it’s more exciting, which I think the girls enjoy. And the depth of our bench helps us keep the fresh legs out there to keep the press going throughout games and not let up, so it’ll be exciting to watch that throughout the year.”
While the Comets brought back a lot of talent from last year’s championship game run, the Thunderbirds are a very young team this year.
The team doesn’t have any seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen, who all saw quality minutes on Monday.
After scoring only three points in the first half, the Thunderbirds did show improvement throughout the game by coming away with 16 points in the second half and playing a better all-around game.
“Our guards have to want the ball more and I think they stepped up and did a better job of that in the second half,” said Missisquoi coach Jim Daly. “We started to see the court better in the second half and read the defense. Sometimes we make plays without looking where the defense is and that’s just a lack of experience.
“But a lot of credit has to go to BFA,” he added. “They played suffocating man-to-man defense and took away our vision all game long.”
The Comets jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead by the end of the first quarter with Laggis leading the way with a strong post game, as she finished the quarter with six of her points and a pair of put backs.
They kept it going in the second quarter with strong defense from McAllister and Elise Archambault, who each had three steals in the first half, which helped propel BFA to a 27-3 lead at the half.
BFA kept it going throughout the rest of the game, while subbing all five players off the floor on numerous occasions and playing most of the second half with its bench players.
It was a tough second game of the season for the Thunderbirds after they played a hard-battled game against Colchester last week for their season-opener.
The Thunderbirds fell to 0-2 on the year and will look to rebound from the loss when they travel to South Burlington on Dec. 22.
“After a game like tonight it’s what are made of and what are we going to do about it?” said Daly. “Games like tonight when you are a young team like ours is where you get that experience and grow. We will be ready to work tomorrow.”
It was a good first game for the Comets after a lot of their players put a lot of work in during the offseason.
“The girls put a lot of work into the offseason and I think that is helping us a lot with us being where we are so early in the season compared to last season,” he added. “The girls are stronger and are conditioned to do a lot more running this year. We aren’t the biggest team, but we are athletic, so will use that to our advantage.”
They will look to make it two in a row to start the year when they host North Country on Dec. 22.
“Obviously, we still have things to work on being the first game of the year,” said Earl. “Overall, I was very happy with the attitude and the effort the girls all gave out there tonight.”
BFA-St. Albans 55, Missisquoi 19
Thunderbirds 0 3 9 7 — 19
Comets 17 10 13 15 — 55
Missisquoi: Kailie Manchester (5 points), Emily Bourdeau (4 points), Catherine Paradis (3 points), Isabel Paquette (3 points), Serena Power (2 points), Riley Noel (2 points).
BFA-St. Albans: Andi Esenler (11 points), Lilly McAllister (11 points), Kelly Laggis (8 points), Hannah Earl (8 points), Elena Clark (7 points), Elise Archambault (4 points), Katie LaBelle (4 points), Zoia Hapitcaia (2 points).
Team Stats, Team Leaders
Missisquoi: 20, Manchester (7)
BFA-St. Albans: 36, Laggis/Earl/LaBelle (7 each)
Missisquoi: 4, Manchester (2)
BFA-St. Albans: 18, McAllister (5)
Missisquoi: 6 of 9
BFA-St. Albans: 6 of 12
— Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyLabor for live game tweets and content throughout the season.