by Aaron Warner
This year’s David and Goliath story saw its final chapter come to a close on Saturday. The #4 ranked Eagles from Mid Vermont Christian School (MVCS) made it to the school’s first state championship game for the boy’s team after knocking off #1 seed Long Trail earlier in the week.
Swept up in an international story that saw the school getting supportive phone calls from as far as Japan and Australia after the MVCS girls team took a stand against the state of Vermont allowing the Long Trail girls team to play a boy, the undersized squad pulled off the unlikely feat of toppling the top seed by overcoming a fourteen point fourth quarter deficit. An anxious crowd filled the stands at Barre Auditorium wondering if Cinderella would be the queen of the dance, however last year’s runner-up from Rivendell Academy was not going to be denied.
The game opened with Mid Vermont’s stellar backcourt of Abel Goodwin and sharpshooter Joel Roberts each draining three-pointers early to put the Eagles in front 10-4, giving the crowd of believers hope their epic journey would reach the top of the mountain. However the experienced team from Rivendell buckled down, crashed the boards and took advantage of stellar ball movement possessing the inside game.
The back and forth tempo saw several lead changes with Eagle front court senior Roman Geoppner draining a three to put them on top 17-14. After that it was all Raptors heading into the locker room as their pressure zone defense and board crashing style gave them fast break after fast break culminating in a ten foot put back to head into the half with a 28-21 advantage.
Coming out for the half-time warm up I watched and counted as Joel Roberts sank 12 of 13 three pointers in a row, many contested by a teammate to simulate game defense. If ever they needed his hot hand it would be in the second half.
The Raptors kept with their high pressure inside game moving their lead to eleven with only themselves standing in their way as their aggressive play led to three consecutive charging fouls. These momentum killers kept MVCS close enough to hang on to an eight point deficit after three quarters.
Turbulent flights and tournament games create prayerful passengers and the stands were full of the penitent on both sides.
A fast break layup off a turnover, a free throw and a put back saw Rivendell rush out to a thirteen point lead and the wind looked like it would leave the Eagles wings. However the boys from the Upper Valley gave their fans another thrill ride led by team captain Abel Goodwin’s three pointer and Goeppner soaring over the Raptors to grab a key rebound. Rivendell’s beefy point guard fouled out on the play and Goeppner would hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to nine.
A controversial play moments later had the fans booing as a Rivendell star player attempting to call a timeout was harassed by Goeppner trying to smack the ball loose. Goeppner’s zealous defense caused the big ball to crash into a player who let out a yell that had Raptor fans irate wanting a flagrant foul. The play was ruled incidental and the teams went to their benches to strategize.
After the timeout Roberts reached back into his bag of tricks and hit a long three to cut the lead to six. After another change of possession Goodwin got an open look but rushed the shot and it sailed past the rim out of bounds. Forced to foul MVCS got the ball back down seven when they found Goeppner at the top of the key for a three pointer and suddenly the dream was alive again with MVCS down 45-41 with just under a minute to play.
The savvy bunch from Fairlee drew on their failure from last year, controlled possession and made their free throws forcing the Eagles to heave up contested threes that would not go down. As the clock ticked down the crowd from Rivendell had the Aud rocking with a year’s worth of waiting for this moment.
A jubilant crowd joined the players on the floor for a brief celebration before everyone settled down to receive their tournament awards. The Eagles became the first boy’s team in school history to make it to a championship game and Rivendell took home their first state title.
The embattled school will now have to face the Vermont Principal’s Association who stated in an interview with the Epoch Times they would be meeting Monday March 13th to discuss what they could do to keep the school from forfeiting games involving transgender athletes. The VPA’s executive director Jay Nichol’s was quoted saying “The VPA supports school leaders to improve equity and quality of educational opportunities for all students” as if equity and education enter into a discussion about boys having an unfair advantage over girls that requires the state to come to the aid of the boys.
In another tone-deaf statement Nichols’ said the basketball league must obey Vermont law and no matter what the meeting decides “boys will continue to play girls’ sports”. You read that correctly. We’re not holding our breath waiting for the selective outrage of the woke mob calling Nichols out for his “mis-gendering” of “trans athletes”.
This humble reporter, who happens to be an expert in athletic advantages enjoyed by males over females, wonders if the state of Vermont and its Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) agenda intended to empower students to become leaders ought to consult the Vermont student body and form a Vermont Student Athletes Council, do the democratic thing and take a statewide vote before they speak on behalf of teens they are notoriously out of touch with?
Asking for some friends.
Editor’s note: Yesterday, the Vermont Principals’ Association banned Mid-Vermont Christian School from tournament play and other activities due to the school’s refusal to play against teams with transgender players. For more coverage, see Warner’s commentary yesterday and an upcoming news story today.