BURLINGTON — The St.Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers and the Rutland Raiders will meet on Sunday afternoon for the Vermont Principals Association Division One state chmpionship … that off state semi-final wins on Monday night inside the Patrick Gymnasium.
In the first game St. Johnsbury’s Alex Carlisle hit a runner from left of the lane with six seconds remaining to give the ‘Toppers a heart stopping 55-54 win over the top seeded Rice Memorial Green Knights. Then in the nightcap Jamison Evans scored ten of his game high 22 points in the fourth quarter as Rutland fought off the Mt. Mansfield Cougars 61-52.
In game one Rice and St. J battled through an even first half, with Rice going to the locker room up 31-27 before the Hilltoppers erupted in the 3rd quarter, outscoring the Knights 19-6 to carry a 46-37 lead into the final eight minutes, only to see Rice mount a furious comeback, culminating in Michel Ndayishimiye’s fall away jumper with 19 seconds left that pushed Rice into a 54-53 lead. But St. J pushed it right back up the floor and Carlisle nailed his shot, and Ndayishimiye’s desperation heave came up wide left as time expired.
Logan Wendell led the Hilltoppers with 16 points, Carlisle finished with 13 including the game winner, and Nick Guckin buried three three pointers for nine.
Rice’s Leo Chaikin led all scorers with 25 points,including 10 in the fourth quarter comeback. Ndayishimiye finished with 13 and John Rousseau added nine.
In the nightcap Rutland rode three first quarter three pointers as they took a 15-10 lead after the first eight minutes. Then pushed the lead to double digits before settling for an eight point edge at 31-23 at the break. Mt. Mansfield cut the margin to three at 36-33 midway in the third, and again to four at 46-42 with just under six minutes to play in the fourth, but each time they did the Raiders had an answer, with Evans leading the way with three hoops and four free throws in the final eight minutes.
Evans led the way with his 22, added 10 rebounds for a double double and added six assists, but Rutland got contributions from the rest of its starting five, as Eric Coughlin put up a double double of his own with 14 points and 12 boards, Ethan Notte buried three treys on his way to an 11 point night, and Evan Pockette added 10. The fifth starter, Jacob Lorman, added four points and five assists. as the five Raiders starters played all but two minutes in the game.
For MMU Becket Hill and Asa Carlson both scored 14 points and Connor Philbrick added nine.
Rice sees their season end at 19-3 while the Cougars finish up 18-5.
Now 18-4, Rutland will return to Patrick seeking their third straight state title. They will meet a 16-7 team in St. Johnsbury. The two teams split two meetings in the regular season, each winning in the other’s gym.