In boys AAU basketball: Orleans County Challengers go to the nationals

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Pictured are the Orleans County Challengers.  In the back row, from left to right, are: Shelly Lanou, Priscilla Stebenne, Isaiah Braithwaite, Ajay Warner, Drew Drageset, Dalton Gentley, Evan Inkel, and Albert Stebenne.  In the front are:  Matthew Menard, Braydon Leach, Landyn Leach, Dillon Stebbins, and Connor Lanou.  Photo courtesy of Martha Braithwaite

Pictured are the Orleans County Challengers. In the back row, from left to right, are: Shelly Lanou, Priscilla Stebenne, Isaiah Braithwaite, Ajay Warner, Drew Drageset, Dalton Gentley, Evan Inkel, and Albert Stebenne. In the front are: Matthew Menard, Braydon Leach, Landyn Leach, Dillon Stebbins, and Connor Lanou. Photo courtesy of Martha Braithwaite

copyright the Chronicle July 23, 2014

by Isaiah Braithwaite

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — We are the Orleans County Challengers. Players from Glover, Irasburg, Albany, Orleans and Derby compete for us. We got together for our first practice in March after our junior high basketball season ended. Despite being competitors just days before, we all immediately got along. Not only playing basketball but off the court, too, we were all friends before teammates.

It was obvious in our first game, that in Vermont, we would be a force to be reckoned with, scoring 79 points in our first game together. After four tournaments, with four games in each one, we were champions — we hadn’t lost a single game.

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First annual March Madness Basketball Tournament held at Brownington school

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The Brownington girls team came in first place in the girls division for the Brownington Graded School’s first annual March Madness Basketball Tournament, held from March 14 to 16.  The team, pictured from left to right, starting in the front row, included:  Alaina Zenonos, Olivia Lacoss, Molly Horton, and Tia Martinez.  In the back row, from left, are:  Faith Kempton, Katie Willard, Kennedy Falconer, Bria Lacoss, and Coach Mike Lacoss.  Photos courtesy of Mike and Barb Lacoss

The Brownington girls team came in first place in the girls division for the Brownington Graded School’s first annual March Madness Basketball Tournament, held from March 14 to 16. The team, pictured from left to right, starting in the front row, included: Alaina Zenonos, Olivia Lacoss, Molly Horton, and Tia Martinez. In the back row, from left, are: Faith Kempton, Katie Willard, Kennedy Falconer, Bria Lacoss, and Coach Mike Lacoss. Photos courtesy of Mike and Barb Lacoss

copyright the Chronicle March 26, 2014

The Brownington girls team came in first place in the girls division for the Brownington Graded School’s first annual March Madness Basketball Tournament, held from March 14 to 16.  The Troy girls were runners up.

The Charleston boys, who called themselves the Mustangs, were the champions of the boys division.  The Brighton boys were runners up.

Nine teams from six schools played in the tournament, which was a fund-raiser for the eighth-grade field trip and the new Brownington Athletic Fund.  — submitted by Mike and Barb Lacoss

The Troy girls were runners up.  In the front row, from left to right, are:  Makayla Ban, Alicia Farrell, Brook Gentry, Sammy Barcomb, Katie Lacasse, Ally Santaw, and Mckenna Marsh.  In the back row, from left, are:  Darcy Mayhew, Abby Baraw, Rebecca McDonald, Abbie Desjarlais, Fayth Columbia, Jessica Carr, and Coach Shannon Bowman.

The Troy girls were runners up. In the front row, from left to right, are: Makayla Ban, Alicia Farrell, Brook Gentry, Sammy Barcomb, Katie Lacasse, Ally Santaw, and Mckenna Marsh. In the back row, from left, are: Darcy Mayhew, Abby Baraw, Rebecca McDonald, Abbie Desjarlais, Fayth Columbia, Jessica Carr, and Coach Shannon Bowman.

The Brighton boys were runners up.  In the front row, from left, are:  Jacob Kocis, Troy Sanville, Alex Barnes, and Josh Rivers.  In the back row, from left, are:  Asstistamt Coach Cooper Densmore, Nicholas Bingham, Zach Letourneau, Aaron Verge, Kyle Hackett, and Coach Bill Burns.

The Brighton boys were runners up. In the front row, from left, are: Jacob Kocis, Troy Sanville, Alex Barnes, and Josh Rivers. In the back row, from left, are: Asstistamt Coach Cooper Densmore, Nicholas Bingham, Zach Letourneau, Aaron Verge, Kyle Hackett, and Coach Bill Burns.

The Charleston boys, who called themselves the Mustangs, were the champions of the boys division.  In the front row, from left, are:  Noah Rivard, Alex Fearino, Zachary Vill’neuve, and Michael Martin.  In the back row, from left, are:  Coach Tony Lamoureux, Cody Bingham, Austin Oleskiewicz, Curtis Bowen, Garrette Blake, and Coach Bob Bowen.

The Charleston boys, who called themselves the Mustangs, were the champions of the boys division. In the front row, from left, are: Noah Rivard, Alex Fearino, Zachary Vill’neuve, and Michael Martin. In the back row, from left, are: Coach Tony Lamoureux, Cody Bingham, Austin Oleskiewicz, Curtis Bowen, Garrette Blake, and Coach Bob Bowen.

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In boys basketball playoffs: Ghosts fend off Ranger comeback bid

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Clint Provoncha (left) had an MVP-type performance in a losing cause as the Lake Region Rangers fell 70-59 to Dylan Jacobs (right) and the Randolph Galloping Ghosts on Thursday night.  A Lake Region senior, Provoncha's 24-point night would lead all scorers in what would be his final trip to the Barre Auditorium. Photo by Richard Creaser

Clint Provoncha (left) had an MVP-type performance in a losing cause as the Lake Region Rangers fell 70-59 to Dylan Jacobs (right) and the Randolph Galloping Ghosts on Thursday night. A Lake Region senior, Provoncha’s 24-point night would lead all scorers in what would be his final trip to the Barre Auditorium.
Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle March 7, 2014

by Richard Creaser

BARRE — The Lake Region Rangers (18-4) battled through 20 regular season and two playoff games to earn a berth in Thursday night’s semifinal at the Barre Auditorium.  Squaring off against the second-seeded Randolph Galloping Ghosts (20-2), there were no illusions about how tough a game this would be.  The DIII semifinal marked the first sell-out crowd of the Barre tournament, tournament officials told the Chronicle.

Both teams had fought hard to make it to Barre but only one would emerge to compete for the DIII crown.  On this night, with a 70-59 win, it would be the Ghosts.

“They play good ball pressure,” Ranger Clint Provoncha said of the Ghosts.  “They were really aggressive on defense and they never give up.”

Tenacity was the name of the game for both of these squads.  Though falling behind by a basket in the early goings, Lake Region managed a 7-2 lead until foul troubles upended the Ranger attack.  Halfway through the opening quarter, the Rangers had accrued five fouls.

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In boys basketball: Gray’s return to NCUHS bad news for Falcons

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NCBBall Gray cmykcopyright the Chronicle February 12, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — It was a bittersweet homecoming for Kendrick Gray, who returned to the North Country gymnasium for the first time this season on Friday night.  Gray, a former North Country Falcon freshman, now plays for the Rice Green Knights (12-3) as a potent sophomore forward.

“Coming in as an opponent was pretty nerve-wracking,” Gray said after Rice’s 74-39 win.  “I just wanted to do my best and everything kind of came out.  I wasn’t expecting to have as good a game as I did.”

Gray exhibited the kind of skills that made him a fearsome opponent for any team.  His 17-point performance, tops among both teams, including shooting 4 for 9 from the free throw line, a three-point basket, and five other baskets including a crowd-inciting dunk in the first quarter.  The fact that his heroics inspired cheers from both halves of the crowd was not lost on the amiable sophomore.

“I knew I couldn’t hide forever and I’d have to come back sometime,” Gray said smiling.  “I love my Newport peeps.  I love this place.”

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In boys basketball: Chargers regain winning ways against Websterville

copyright the Chronicle February 5, 2014

by Richard Creaser

In the battle of the freshmen, Craftsbury Charger Austin Masi (foreground) outpaces Websterville Warrior Wyatt Morrison during Monday's varsity match in Craftsbury.  In the background Chargers Issac Spaulding and Jon DeLaBruere (back right) hustle to support the attack.

In the battle of the freshmen, Craftsbury Charger Austin Masi (foreground) outpaces Websterville Warrior Wyatt Morrison during Monday’s varsity match in Craftsbury. In the background Chargers Issac Spaulding and Jon DeLaBruere (back right) hustle to support the attack.

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — The Craftsbury Academy Chargers boys basketball team (12-2) returned to form with a 56-33 win over the visiting Websterville Baptist Christian School Warriors (1-14) Monday night.  The boys had suffered a 68-35 loss to Rochester on Saturday.

The team struggled at times to find its rhythm, but that was due to trying new lines, Craftsbury Coach Derek Cipriano explained after the game.

“Overall, I think we did a good job of working the play and moving the ball,” the coach said.  “I was trying to get everyone into the game and that affected us offensively.  But I also have to give credit to Websterville for making us earn it tonight.”

Charger Issac Spaulding singled out Warrior Hayden McIntyre for his strong play under the net.  McIntyre was a highly visible presence under the basket, using his superior height and reach to break up plays and block shots.

“We don’t have that kind of size so we knew we couldn’t take him on head-on,” Spaulding said after the game.  “But we learned if we boxed him out and went around him we could usually find an opening and take the shot.”

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In girls basketball: Chargers defense stifles Warriors

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Craftsbury Charger Mackenzie Blaney (center) takes a shot against Websterville Warrior Abby Fifield (left) as fellow Charger Janet Bohannon looks on.  Photos by Richard Creaser

Craftsbury Charger Mackenzie Blaney (center) takes a shot against Websterville Warrior Abby Fifield (left) as fellow Charger Janet Bohannon looks on. Photos by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle February 5, 2014

by Richard Creaser

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — The Craftsbury Chargers girls varsity basketball team (13-1) executed a total lockdown defense on Monday night enroute to a 61-5 win over the visiting Websterville Baptist Christian School Warriors (3-11).  Craftsbury Coach Rick Thomas said that he has always focused on defense as part of his team’s strategy and that focus certainly showed on Monday night.

“In a 120-minute practice, we spend about 80 minutes on defensive drills,” Coach Thomas said.  “I’m not too worried about our offense.  We have such a great depth of offensive talent that I would rather focus more on what we need to do defensively to win games.”

A lack of bench depth certainly hampered the Warriors.  Of the nine players on the roster, only six suited up for Monday’s contest with a seventh attending though on crutches.

“I think that alone speaks to the great conditioning on that team,” Coach Thomas said of his opponents.  “With only one sub, they were still able to play through the whole game.”

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North Country grad will coach NBA Charlotte Bobcats

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Steve Clifford, a 1979 graduate of North Country Union High, was named the head coach of the NBA franchise the Charlotte Bobcats on May 29.  It has been a long 28-year journey, but Mr. Clifford is thrilled to be doing what he loves most.  Courtesy photo by Kent Smith, NBAE/Getty Images

Steve Clifford, a 1979 graduate of North Country Union High, was named the head coach of the NBA franchise the Charlotte Bobcats on May 29. It has been a long 28-year journey, but Mr. Clifford is thrilled to be doing what he loves most. Courtesy photo by Kent Smith, NBAE/Getty Images

by Richard Creaser

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Steve Clifford, a 1979 graduate of North Country Union High School, has been named head coach of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats.  Mr. Clifford accepted a two-year, $6-million deal with a club option for a third year.  Mr. Clifford spoke with the Chronicle about his new position on Thursday, June 6.

“My dad was a really successful coach at North Country, and I think that’s really where it all started,” Mr. Clifford said, referring to his father, Gerald Clifford.  “There were a lot of nights spent sitting around the kitchen table talking basketball.  We definitely were a basketball family — it was a big part of how we lived.”

By the time he graduated from North Country, Mr. Clifford had already taken his first steps on the path to the NBA.  He entered the University of Maine at Farmington, graduating with a degree in special education.

“I always knew, even from a young age, that teaching and coaching were something I wanted to do,” he said.  “It was while in college that I started off coaching at Woodland High School.”

Mr. Clifford made the transition from high school varsity to the collegiate coaching world with a four-year stint at St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire.  Over the next 14 years he would find himself at Fairfield College, Boston University, and Siena College before landing a head coaching position at Adelphi University.

During his time at Adelphi, Mr. Clifford led the program to an 86-36 record and four straight 20-plus win seasons, including four appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament.  Mr. Clifford would then serve one year as assistant coach at East Carolina University before making his first foray into the NBA.

Mr. Clifford’s career in the NBA began in 2000 as an advance scout for the New York Knicks and as an assistant coach from 2001-2003.  He then went on to serve as assistant coach to Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets from 2003-2007 and then as an assistant coach to Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic from 2007-2011 before landing with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2011-2012 season.

“I didn’t set out to be an NBA coach,” Mr. Clifford said.  “I’ve just always loved my job and went where the opportunities presented themselves.”

There are a few simple sounding things that have helped guide him to his current position, Mr. Clifford revealed.

“It starts with finding a profession you have a passion for,” he said.  “I go to work every day and I’m excited by it and challenged by it.”

It’s also important to focus on each and every task you encounter.  You need to take pride in what you produce each and every time, Mr. Clifford said.  When you take pride in your work, others will take notice.

Next you need to be able to handle the good and the bad.  It’s never easy to accept bad news, but it is a fact that life doesn’t always give you exactly what you want or how you want it, regardless of what profession you’re in, Mr. Clifford said.

“How you deal with adversity is a big part of life,” he said.  “Throughout my career I’ve been fired four times.  It’s never easy but you have to pick up and move on.”

But success is not a plateau but an ever-evolving goal.  “You need to strive to continually evolve,” he said.  “It’s not always easy in this world but you need to be ready to jump at the opportunities that present themselves.”

Along with success there are always drawbacks as well.  Some sacrifices will have to be made, even as the head coach of an NBA franchise, Mr. Clifford said.

“The demands of the job will affect your personal life and your family time,” he said.  “That’s the biggest negative.  It’s the kind of job where you can’t just half do it.  It takes a lot of your time and you have to be prepared for that.”

As head coach you’re always under the microscope of the fans, your employers and the media, Mr. Clifford said.

“There’s nothing else I could do to make the kind of money I do at something I love,” he said.  “Dealing with the reality of what it is is a big part of being able to move on and do better.  You don’t get all of the great things without all of the bad things.”

Taking the helm of a team, at any level, is a test of leadership.  It involves establishing credibility with your players and setting a direction for the team, Mr. Clifford said.

“The detail parts are so important,” he said.  “Coaching, to me, at any level, is hard.  The difference is this:   If you’re coaching at the high school level, you’re the best coach that guy has ever played for.  By the time you get to the NBA, they’ve played for a lot of great coaches.”

Standing out among great coaches isn’t easy.  Despite the challenges, Mr. Clifford is certain that it’s a challenge he’s willing to accept.

“It’s great,” he said.  “It’s something you never take for granted.  There are times when you’re driving home and you’ve just seen the brilliance of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and you have to think this is the best job in the world.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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