By Roger Brown
The Burlington High School boys basketball team found itself in an unusual position at halftime of Tuesday night’s game against Rice, but when the game was over the scoreboard had a familiar look.
Burlington overcame a four-point halftime deficit – the first time it trailed at the half this season – and extended its winning streak to 37 games by beating Rice, 66-55.
It was the closest game Burlington (13-0) has played during its winning streak, and the second time Burlington has beaten Rice this season. The Seahorses posted a 78-52 victory over the Green Knights on Dec. 9.
“I’ve watched a lot of film, and one of things you look for is weaknesses and mismatches, but they don’t have any,” Rice coach Paul Pecor told the Burlington Free Press. “They play so well together – that’s the biggest thing.”
Burlington’s James Hale scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, and Clancy Rugg, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, scored 17 of his 21 points after halftime.
Burlington also received nine second-half points from Kevin Cherry, who finished with 13.
“They’re never easy,” Hale said. “This one was a little closer than the rest of them.”
Burlington began to separate itself when Cherry hit back-to-back 3-pointers with 1:42 left in the third quarter, but Rice pulled within three points when Jon Goldberg hit a 3-pointer with 3:11 to play. Burlington sealed the victory by punctuating the game with a 14-6 run.
Rice received 16 points Goldberg, 15 from Nick Meunier and 12 from David Gagne.
Rice has a 54-6 record in its last 60 games, and all six losses have come against Burlington.
Burlington went 24-0 en route to the Division I championship last season. If Burlington finishes unbeaten this season, many believe it will be the first time a Division I boys team has posted back-to-back unbeaten seasons.
“I don’t believe it’s been done in Division I,” Vermont high school historian Frank Bioty told the Free Press.
Vermont teams used to participate in the New England High School Basketball Tournament. Facing other top teams from the New England states prevented several Vermont teams from finishing unbeaten.
Burlington coach Matt Johnson, who played at the University of Vermont, said an unbeaten season is not a topic of discussion at practice.
“We have never really talked about going undefeated,” he said. “They practice hard every day and take every game seriously. That is what is so special and unique about this group. They take nothing for granted.”
Girls Basketball: Lawton Reaches Milestone
Nicole Lawton, a senior forward, became the first member of the BFA-St. Albans girls basketball program to score 1,000 career points when she tossed in 15 to help BFA beat North Country, 58-34, Saturday.
Lawton, who has accepted a basketball scholarship from St. Michael’s College, entered the game 14 points shy of 1,000. She also collected 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in the victory.
Lawton is the second girl in northern Vermont to reach the 1,000-point mark this season. South Burlington’s Kelsey Beynnon surpassed 1,000 points earlier this year.