By LAUREN READ
BURLINGTON – For the entirety of the first half of Sunday’s Division I girls basketball championship game, Champlain Valley survived with their three-point game.
But in the second half it was the long game of St. Johnsbury’s Neva Bostic that ultimately doomed the Redhawks’ chances at coming away with a title.
“Those three 3’s were just devastating,” said CVU coach Ute Otley. “I liked our defensive intensity, I liked the way we defended tonight. Those three Bostic shots were tough shots.
“It went from tied to nine points like that.”
Bostic hit three three-pointers in the third quarter and the Hilltoppers beat Champlain Valley Union 42-35 to capture their second straight D-I state championships.
“Winning two in a row is a big deal,” said St. Johnsbury coach Jack Driscoll. “Winning two in a row against CVU is a bigger deal.”
After the two teams came out of halftime tied 17-17, both squads traded early chances but could not pull away.
But then Bostic, who has been hot from the 3-point line throughout the playoffs, found space at the top of the arc and hit the shot – that turned into a four-point play when she hit the foul shot.
Forty-five seconds later the senior found space again, hitting another three-pointer to give St. Johnsbury the 24-19 lead.
One more shot from behind the arc, with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter, gave the Hilltoppers 29-19 lead and all of the momentum.
“Neva Bostic’s three-pointers, that was clearly the turning point,” Driscoll said. “It got us pumped up and energized, it was huge lift.”
It was a reversal of fortune for the Redhawks, who went 5-for-5 from the 3-point line in the first half. But the top seed struggled with every other shot, going 1-for-16 from the floor.
“You’ve got to have that balance, you’ve got to hit from the inside out first,” Otley said of the team’s offensive woes. “It wasn’t for lack of effort.”
The offense improved slightly in the second half but it was not enough to counter the St. Johnsbury lead. CVU went 11-for-43 from the floor for the game – and 7-of-15 from the three-point
“We knew we couldn’t take everything away from them,” Driscoll said. “We wanted to clog the paint, keep the ball out of the middle.”
St. Johnsbury’s Josie Choiniere led all scorers with 13 points, while reigning Gatorade Player of the Year Sadie Stetson had 12 points. Bostic finished with 10 points, all in the third quarter.
“Sadie Stetson is a defensive presence on her side of the floor, no matter what,” Otley said. “I definitely think she took away some options and made our kids hesitate. Her defensive presence is something for sure.”
Mekkena Boyd paced the Redhawks with 10 points and Catherine Gilwee added nine points, which all came from three-pointers.
It was the third year in a row that St. Johnsbury and Champlain Valley have met in the final and the second year in a row that the Hilltoppers have emerged on top.
“They (CVU) have been here nine years a row, they were the No. 1 seed.” Driscoll said. “So to come in here and play like we did today is fantastic.”
Champlain Valley finished the season 23-1 after coming into the postseason with an undefeated record.