by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 1-21-2014
CRAFTSBURY COMMON — The Craftsbury Academy Chargers (7-1) galloped off to an early lead en route to their seventh straight win of the season against the visiting Concord Wildcats (2-7) 57-34 on Tuesday night. The Chargers have been unbeatable since a season opening loss to Division III Richford, and Coach Rick Thomas envisions great things for this year’s squad.
“This team has an amazing opportunity in front of them,” the coach said after the game. “What they do with it is entirely up to them.”
The Chargers surrendered the first basket of the game to the Wildcats before reeling off 14 points of their own to take control of the game. Big first half performances from Janet Bohannon and Meghan Pennock helped Craftsbury establish a dominant 22-6 lead after the first quarter of play. That’s where things started to unravel.
The Wildcats would cut the Chargers’ lead to 11 points before the home side finally started to turn things around. It was a dismal quarter for both sides as the two teams combined for only 12 points between them
“We kind of fell apart,” Bohannon said of the second quarter. “We came out rough and couldn’t turn it around. It really didn’t fall into place until the third quarter.”
Surrendering turnovers to the Wildcats created a host of problems for Craftsbury, Coach Thomas said. Concord’s Kendra Darrell took advantage of the defensive lapses and buried five three-pointers and 17 points on the night.
“They had a really strong outside game,” Bohannon said. “They also took away our outside game which we like to run, but left it open up the middle, so that’s where we went.”
Taking control of the inside game was a key factor in Tuesday’s win, Coach Thomas said. Equally important was the team’s ability to regain the focus that was lacking in the second quarter.
“I was a little disappointed by that lack of focus,” Coach Thomas said. “When you come in against a strong program like Concord, they’re going to make you pay for your mistakes.”
Early season injuries and a rotation of players becoming re-acclimated to the game has prevented a perfect jelling of the team. Leadership from the team’s three seniors coupled with cohesive and consistent coaching from the school’s feeder programs has helped to offset the rough patches, the coach said.
“Eight games into the season and we’re still trying to find our identity,” Coach Thomas said. “I’ve been trying to teach them the difference between a fast game and a frantic one. We’ve got some amazing speed, but we need to take the time to execute the plays.”
The team’s speed is a function of solid defensive lockdowns, forcing turnovers and rapidly moving the ball up the court. When executed well, it provides the team with shooting opportunities. When it falls apart, it exposes vulnerabilities to the teams capable of exploiting them, Coach Thomas said.
“We really know how to break out our zone offense,” Bohannon said. “We push the ball really well, and that’s what lets us use our speed. We like to run, but it all starts with solid passing.”
The Chargers benefited from balanced scoring receiving 15 points from Bohannon, 10 from Pennock, eight from Lynn Brown and 9 from Thalia Thomas. All 9 of Thomas’ points were recorded in the final three minutes of play including the Chargers’ lone three-pointer of the night. In addition to Darrell’s 17-point performance, the Wildcats received a solid effort from Emily Harran who recorded 7 points on the night.
The Chargers return to action on Friday night as they host Websterville in the first game of the Stephen Willey Memorial Tournament.