CRAFTSBURYâ€“Christmas came early to the Craftsbury Academy, complete with a visit from Bill "Santa Claus" Lee, as both the boy's and the girl's teams won their respective divisions of the Stephen Willey Memorial Tournament on Saturday.
"Stephen was here in the gym with us today," said head of the both the boy's and girl's team Rick Thomas. "If you want to know how important winning this tournament is to us, all you have to do is look at our entire boy's team as they went out to receive their trophy. Not just the captains went out, the entire team did, and that is how much Stephen meant to us."
Both teams had to go through UCA to earn their respective trophies, and here is the path each team went on to get to their respective destiny's.
The tournament kicked off on Friday with UCA's girls earning their first win of the season, defeating Cabot 40-34.
"There was a new confidence about them which was nice to see," said UCA coach Molly Smith on her girl's play in the tourney's opening game.
The Crusaders were led by Hannah Piette's 19 points, and Amy DeLaBruere's six points and ten rebounds.
Moriah Lafoe's six rebounds were also a big part of the win.
Next up on the schedule were the UCA boy's, who disposed of Mid-Vermont Christian with a 45-33 triumph.
"It was a little closer than I would of liked, but we did some good things on defense," coach Tony DeLaBruere said. "It was a good team win with no foul trouble."
Marquel Taylor-Webster had a team-high sixteen points in, and Jon DeLaBruere contributed a dozen rebounds in the win.
Now it was Craftsbury's turn to hit the floor, and they hit it at full speed.
The girls opened the Charger portion of the night with a twenty-six point first quarter en route to a 53-30 win over Websterville.
Said Thomas, "We established an early lead and then worked on a few offensive elements that were a little rusty."
Janet Bohannon continued to flex her muscle, scoring twenty-six in limited action, and Thalia Thomas had thirteen assists in the win.
Thomas then brought out his boy's team, whose twenty-two point third quarter sparked their 58-39 win against Cabot.
"The third quarter has been a concern of ours, and on Friday, we came out with some fire," Thomas said.
Kyle Adams scored eight of his team-high twenty-two points in the third, while Alex Vetere had five in the quarter, finishing with twelve on the night.
Day two of play saw Websterville and Mid-Vermont both beating Cabot in their consolation games.
That set the stage for Championship game number one between the UCA and Craftsbury girls.
The Chargers were undefeated against UCA going into the game, and this time around it was no different, as they took home first place with a thundering 51-17 win over the Crusaders.
Things did not start out very rosy, as neither team had much luck in first.
Bohannon and Anna Strong each had a bucket for the Chargers, while Laura Libby went 3/4 from the line, leaving the score at 4-3 CA after one.
Then the flood gates opened.
The Academy went on a sixteen point run to start the second quarter, and it was all over but the trophy ceremony.
Bohannon got hot, scoring ten, and Thomas added six points while displaying some excellent ball movement.
"We were having a hard time in the first but we got it together in the second," said Thalia after the game.
Strong, Sarah Dunbar, Meghan Pennock and Meghan Brown also contributed points in the 26 point quarter.
Piette had the only UCA bucket in the second.
The Chargers tacked on twenty-one in the second half, while UCA could muster only twelve, but that did not deter Molly Smith, who was proud of her girl's ability to take home second place in the tournament.
UCA moves to 1-4 on the year, while the Chargers are a healthy 5-1.
Laura Libby had a team-high nine for UCA while Craftsbury's sixteen from Bohannon led all scorers.
Next up was the boy's game, pitting an undefeated Crusader squad versus the one win Chargers.
Well make it two wins now for Craftsbury, as they had their best showing of the year against UCA, finally defeating the Crusaders 48-31 in the third meeting of the year between the two teams, moving their record to 2-4.
The key to the win was the combination of Adams, Vetere, Logan MasseÂ´, Frank Spiese, and Mael Le Scouezec.
Once these five players got together on the court they were unstoppable.
It was amazing, watching this quintet work the ball on offense, as well as play shut-down defense.
It was the defense that was especially impressive.
They limited Chris DeLaBruere to just seven points after he had torched them for twenty-five plus the previous time out.
They held Paul Saaman to ten, and Taylor-Webster to a UCA (3-1) best eleven.
Marquel missed much of the game with a lower body injury, which really eliminated the Crusaders inside game.
On offense, Craftsbury was proficient from outside and inside, hitting six three's and getting a strong inside presence from Adams.
Adams would lead all scorers with twenty-three points, while Vetere hit three threes as part of his thirteen point effort.
All said and done, it was a wonderful day to be a Charger, and a great way to kick off the holidays for both teams.
Craftsbury will be back in action this weekend at Chelsea on Saturday for a doubleheader starting with the girls at 5:30.
For UCA they are off to Websterville on Friday, with the girls starting at 4:00.
Editor's note: This story is missing a bunch of quotes due to the fact that my recorder fell out of my bag in Craftsbury.
Coach Rick Thomas found my recorder, which I will have back after the holiday's, making him my official Santa of 2012.
Thanks Rick, I am truly grateful and congratulations on having both or your teams win the Stephen Willey Tournament.