Tiny Christian school takes on bigger squad at the Aud
by Aaron Warner
“Do you like apples?”
A harmless question if it’s apples that are really at stake. However it’s the question many of us remember starting the mess we’re in thanks to a couple of easily fooled people listening to a talking serpent in a garden, or so we recall from Sunday school, if ever we’ve gone. Much more was, and still is, at stake.
Monday night at the Barre Auditorium, the Vermont high school equivalent to the Boston Garden, replete with brick walls and early New England era hardware, such as bleachers with tape where steps should have been built, and radiators on the walls that make the mountains outside look young, the stands were nearly packed for this year’s continuing saga of David versus a woke Goliath.
Last week we reported on the Mid Vermont Christian School (MVCS) girl’s varsity basketball team choosing to forfeit rather than play the Long Trail School (LTS) Mountain Lions team who had a transgender male in the starting lineup. Within less than twenty-four hours the story had made it on to Twitter where it went viral getting covered by CBS Sports, the Today Show, the Daily Wire and numerous other media outlets across the globe.
The tiny school in Quechee, Vermont that can barely afford to keep its doors open was taking a stand on principle, at a time when Christian schools and churches are closing or under attack for being open about honoring God despite cultural pressure to bend the knee to today’s woke mob.
As fate in the good Lord’s hands would have it this David versus Goliath story was yet to crescendo. Both schools’ boys’ teams met tonight in the semi-finals. It was first time in school history a MVCS boys basketball team had made it this far as the 11-6 Eagles had to face the #2 team in Vermont with a nearly undefeated 18-1 record.
The tale of the tape illustrated the sizeable difference between the two. LTS had a 6’7”, two 6’5” and a 6’3” player who looked like he needed a couple teammates to help him get his jersey on his college lineman-esque torso, while the Eagles starting five were all 6’2” or shorter. The combined pack weight of the starters had LTS up several hundred pounds. As a coach and long time basketball player, my honest assessment early on was this was going to be a walk in the park for the Mountain Lions if they pounded it inside.
Aware of the cultural, political and spiritual significance I scanned the stands behind the team benches. The LTS student body was hyping their fan base with cheers that, though spirited and fun, ended with signs intended to mock the Christian school. “Pride” flags were held by several and waved around as if to antagonize the onlookers. No stranger to high school fans behaving badly, this was somewhat mild from what I was used to growing up in the city. However statements were being made. The usually subdued MVCS student body was not going to be intimidated. They shot back chants early and often rallied by their new Eagle mascot.
Down eight points in the first quarter, and struggling to make shots or rebound, it wasn’t looking good for the Eagles. However LTS took their big men out and went with a smaller line up allowing MVCS to fight their way back to a 21-21 tie at half. The energy in the building was becoming more electric than a Texas thunderstorm.
I ran down stairs to the concession to get waters for my wife and I, where I saw who appeared to be Rose J., the player of controversy from the girl’s team. Rose stands a solid 6’2” or more as I am 6’1” and could see the difference. As I watched him standing among his teammates he appeared noticeably anxious. Though surrounded by female comrades, I couldn’t help but detect an uneasiness to his furtive glances around the room. I wondered if this boy, who perhaps felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, now felt trapped by the enthusiastic supporters of his teenage desire to be accepted. In a way it reminded me of Jesus who was made a spectacle by the crowds that wanted to see the freaky Messiah show rather than truly come to know Him.
I asked some of the ushers if they were familiar with the back story of tonight’s game. They weren’t but they also weren’t surprised. They had that “anything goes in Vermont” kind of wizened look in their eyes. The couple sitting behind me were also unfamiliar with the subtext of tonight’s matchup, deftly displaying a friendly Millennial disinterest as I explained it to them. Their vibe? They were there to experience some high school basketball.
The LTS coaches clearly knew the inside game was their ticket to the big dance. They kept the behemoths on the court and their skilled backcourt duo moved the ball around and inside leading to a 38-30 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
From 2015 to 2018 my step-son played on the Eagles who were known for having a limited bench. One year they only suited up six players, leaving them depleted and outmanned night after night. Tonight was no different. The Eagles starting five remained on the floor the entire game thus far, which meant they were facing exhaustion to go along with their eight point deficit.
With the fourth quarter underway the Mountain Lions added to their lead. The Eagles still had some fight in them but it didn’t look to be enough. The tiny sea of blue fans grew quiet as the roars from the flag waving LTS contingent lifted their team to an even larger lead. The clock rolled down to five minutes left in the game…when it happened…
Eagle guard Joel Roberts starting hurling up three pointers like rocks into the giants crown. After three in a row nearly the entire crowd was on their feet . Backcourt mate Abel Goodwin, son of the varsity girls team coach Chris Goodwin, added another, making it a three point game and I thought I might lose some hearing. The impossible suddenly seemed possible.
A cagey Long Trail maintained their lead with just over a minute to play and still up by three. As can be expected they played keep-away until the Eagles, who had played a pretty clean game to this point, were forced to foul. This desperation move was the only way they could hope to get the ball back, which they did after a missed LTS free throw. With about forty seconds to go the Eagles made another basket cutting the lead to one point. I wasn’t sure these creaky old stands were going to make it through the frenzy. Forced to foul yet again, MVCS got the ball back off of a missed free throw. With a chance to take the lead they went inside to Roman Geoppner who looked to have gotten fouled but didn’t get the call when the ball somehow made it back out to Abel Goodwin. With less than five seconds to go in the game Goodwin made a move from the free-throw line extended, elevated above the Mountain Lion defenders and made a fade-away shot reminiscent of Jimmy Chitwood in Hoosiers. The eruption from the fans was Biblical.
LTS hurled a desperation shot that just barely missed as the buzzer sounded. The tiny sea of blue fans rushed the floor like it was Valparaiso upsetting Kansas and a story for the ages was etched into the brick walls of the ancient building.
Luckily the sportsmanship between the two teams was better than that of their student fans. The LTS players, who appeared to be the better team, were the victim of a divine comedy meant to remind all who were watching that God still loves the little David’s who are willing to stand courageously and fight for His honor, and He delivered the most exciting high school basketball game I have ever seen, precisely because the stakes were so high.
How do you like them apples?
The author is a fitness expert living in Hartford.