copyright the Chronicle February 25, 2015
by David Dudley
Editor’s note: The following is an account of a game that took place Friday. The following Monday, the LR girls beat Lyndon Institute (LI) at a play-off game at the Barre Auditorium, to advance to the final four for division II girls basketball for the state of Vermont. The last time the LR girls were in a division II final was 1974. Monday’s game saw LI dominate, sometimes by as much as ten points, until the final 35 seconds of play, when the LR girls scored a quick eight points to win, 45-43. The LR girls will play again in Barre on Saturday, at 3:45 p.m., against whoever wins the other semi-final game Wednesday night, either Fair Haven or Mill River. “Both the kids and the fans last night were phenomenal,” said Coach Joe Houston.
The top ranked Lake Region Union High School Rangers shut down the ninth seed Milton Yellow Jackets 45-34 in playdown action Friday evening. Led by Tyrah Urie, the Rangers opened the game with sticky, aggressive defense, effective ball movement, and a relentless attack on the basket that disrupted the Yellow Jackets’ game plan. The Rangers clinched the lead early and never looked back.
The home court advantage was working for the Rangers, as fans poured their hearts out for their girls. They opened the game with an equally high energy approach to the game, cheering the Rangers on, almost willing them to exceed themselves.
Many players on the Rangers roster still remember last year’s loss to the Yellow Jackets in the quarterfinals, and it showed; they were on a mission.
Urie, who lit up the Yellow Jackets defense for 25 points, led the charge. She was surrounded by her teammates, friends, fans and family after the game. She spoke calmly, but her eyes were aglow when asked about the Rangers victory.
“It felt good,” Urie said. “It’s the best feeling to get this win at home.”
Likewise, Rangers Coach Joe Houston was thrilled that his team played so well.
“Our team defense was phenomenal,” Mr. Houston said after the game. “We were after loose balls. We were inside of driving lanes and passing lanes, taking stuff away from them.”
Both teams hit the floor with a high energy approach, making for a fast-paced game. In the opening moments, the ball changed possession quickly and often. Though the Rangers missed a handful of shots during that stretch, they forced at least three turnovers, establishing the lockdown defense that made it almost impossible for the Yellow Jackets to score.
After a pair of jump shots from Emily Lawson, and Tyrah Urie, the Rangers jumped out to a 5-1 lead. But the early game jitters were contagious. Apart from two free throws, the Rangers held the Yellow Jackets scoreless for nearly five minutes into the first quarter.
Milton Coach Mike LeFebvre called timeout to try and calm his team. But it must have been hard for the Yellow Jackets to hear their coach speak, as the home crowd constantly chanted “Defense!”
The Rangers defense didn’t disappoint. They allowed only one more free throw to the Yellow Jackets, holding them scoreless from the floor through the first quarter.
“We really pulled together to make them work that much harder to do what they wanted to do,” Mr. Houston said. “We played that way all night.”
The second quarter was much of the same. The Rangers controlled the pace of the game, and though they weren’t shooting a high percentage from the floor, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get the ball to fall.
The Rangers full court press had the Yellow Jackets shaken, as they threw away pass after pass.
With a little over five minutes left in the half, Urie hit Lawson on a sneaky inbound play. Lawson put the ball in from the low block to give the Rangers a 11-4 lead.
The Yellow Jackets fourth point, like the three preceding points, came from the foul line.
Then Megan Menard took the ball the length of the court to hit on a layup to give the Rangers two more, setting the score 13-4.
The Yellow Jackets looked to their leading scorer, Selena Patterson, to get them back in the game. But the Rangers had other ideas. They swarmed Patterson each time she touched the ball, making it nearly impossible for her to score.
“We knew we had to shut down Patterson,” Mr. Houston said. “She’s probably their best all around player, so we were really keyed on her. Menard and Emily Lawson teamed up on her. They denied her the ball and made her work for every shot. Then we had help on her when we needed it.”
Urie closed out the half with a strong offensive showing, hitting a trey, a layup, and another jumper before the break.
Still, the Yellow Jackets fought hard. They had a slight advantage on the boards, especially on the offensive end. Though they scored a number of points on put-backs, they trailed 23-14 at the half.
The Yellow Jackets struck first as the second half got underway, but Urie didn’t miss a step. She hit from down low, and then again after forcing another turnover, giving the Rangers a 29-16 advantage.
Whatever Coach Houston told his team during the half, it was effective. The Rangers returned to the floor with the same intensity, but it was more focused. They cracked the game wide open as they rallied to build a 20-point lead, 40-20 early in the fourth quarter.
As the game wore on it seemed that the Rangers, egged on by their fans, played with increasing intensity. The Yellow Jackets struggled to make passes, and shot after shot rattled round the rim, only to pop out into the hands of some well-positioned Ranger.
Patterson made a big push as the game wound down, scoring 11 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter. But the game was well out of reach for the Yellow Jackets by then.
When it was all said and done, the Rangers, led by Urie’s 25-point performance, won 45-34. Lawson pitched in 10.
“We played down there last year, and we did not have our best game,” Mr. Houston said. “We really wanted to come back home and make a statement about how good we are as a team, and we executed. It’s a great confidence booster for all of us.”
contact David Dudley at [email protected]
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