You can't blame fans of the University of Vermont mens' basketball team if they're already looking ahead to the Big Dance. The Catamounts and coach John Becker would surely remind those fans that they've still got work to do to get there, but after UVM's 74-41 dismantling of New Hampshire last night, the America East championship crown settling squarely in Burlington has a feel of inevitability to it.
UVM has so many weapons in this record setting year, and one of them set a record last night when freshman Anthony Lamb made ten consecutive field goals, a post-season America East record, as part of his 24 point effort. Lamb was six of nine from beyond the arc, and also pulled down six rebounds. Payton Henson added 14 points but it was UVM's defense that most likely put a smile on coach Becker's face, as UNH shot a hopeless 14 of 50 from the floor.
Now the only team standing between UVM and their first automatic bid to the NCAA tournament since 2012 is a familiar foe, the Albany Great Danes. It'll be the third year in a row the Danes and Catamounts will meet in the final, but UVM will be far and away the favorite this time around. Game time is 11am Saturday at Patrick Gymnasium, and if you can't manage to get a ticket for what is sure to be a sold out contest, the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
High school playoff action is underway in and in girls' high school hockey, BFA St. Albans upset top seeded Essex 1-0 in the semi-finals last night. The Comets got the only goal they would need on a short-handed strike by Emma Hill, and Madeleine Hungerford made 24 saves in net to make it stand up. BFA-St. Albans can also relish their first playoff win over the Hornets, who knocked the Comets out of the playoffs the last three seasons, and there will not be a sixth straight finals appearance for the Essex girls this year.
Elsewhere in division one play, Carolyn Laird made 34 saves to notch a shutout against number two Middlebury, and Emma Mazzariello scored the only tally of the game in the second period to lead Rutland to a 1-0 semi-final win.
In division two, Anisa Tarrant scored in overtime to lead Rice to a 3-2 win over U-32 as the Green Knights make it to the finals for the first time in program history, and the Missisquoi Thunderbirds are also getting a shot at their first state title after beating Woodstock 2-0. Adrianna Dostie and Alyssa Audet scored for the Thunderbirds and Makayla Bombardier stopped all 27 shots that came her way.
In boys' division two basketball playoffs Mount St. Joseph upset top seeded Mill River 47-40 at Barre Auditorium. Kai Norwood had 13 points for the Mounties, who scored their first win over Mill River this season at just the right time, and in division four, top seeded Twinfield needed a clutch 3-pointer from Eli Wilson with 18 seconds left to edge out Danville 66-64.
To the pros, and in the NHL, as well as the Boston Bruins have played under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, they lost a game last night they really needed to win, or at least get a point out of. Instead, the Bruins fell to the Ottawa Senators 4-2 and find themselves now a full two games behind the Senators for second place in the Atlantic division. A win or a regulation tie would have put the B's within striking distance of catching or passing Ottawa, which still has two games in hand on Boston. The teams do play twice more before the regular season ends so the Bruins will get a chance at a better effort than they put forth last night, falling behind early in the first 2-0 on the first two shots Ottawa took on Tuukka Rask. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins, but by then it was a 3-2 game and Alex Burrows scored an open net goal to put away any hopes of a Bruins comeback.
Elsewhere the NY Rangers got an overtime goal from Mika Zibanejad, the only goal of the game, in a 1-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the NBA Jamal Crawford hit three three pointers in just over a minute late in the third quarter to key a rally for the LA Clippers, and with 26 from Blake Griffin and 23 from Chris Paul, The Clips sent the Boston Celtics to their second straight loss, 116-102 at the Staples Center. Isaiah Thomas had 31 points for Boston, but the Celtics as a team shot just 41 percent from the floor in the loss.