NEWPORT-- The North Country Falcons faced off against the Missisquoi Thunderbirds for the 2nd time in 2 weeks on Friday.
After dropping the first contest, they avenged their loss, walking away with a 61-51 victory, while holding the T-Birds leading scorer Matt St. Amour to 16 points after he had scored 40 in the previous meeting.
Caleb Prue and Tyler Paxman connected early, putting North Country out on top 10-6 midway through the first. The quarter would end in favor of NCU, with Jason Hatin going on a personal 4-0 run to push the score to 14-11.
The Thunderbirds would pull to within 2 points at 21-19, with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd after Robert Dabrowski knocked down a long 2 from the baseline, but that is as close as they would get. After back-to-back charging violations and some excellent play down low, a Hatin 2 would stretch the lead to double-digits at 31-19. NCU, while up by 10, deployed its full-court press with 2 minutes to go in the half, and Missisquoi had no answer for it. The stellar D led to 3 more MVU turnovers and by the time the halftime buzzer rang, the Falcons found themselves out in front by 18 points, with the score 39-21.
North Country dominated the game in the first half, their offense was clicking, their defense was stellar, they were the better rebounding team, and they held St. Amour to 6 first half points.
But, as it often does in the game of basketball, the tides changed in the 2nd half. The T-birds came out hungry in the 3rd quarter and thanks to lights out shooting they were able to dig into the Falcon lead. St. Amour scored 4 quick points to cut the lead to 14 and with 2 minutes left in the quarter Craig Laroche would hit back-to-back 3's to cut the lead to single-digits at 48-39. NC was able to send the score back to an 11 point spread, thanks to a Devon Martin turnaround J, but at the end of 3, the Falcons had seen their lead shrink from 18 to 11, at 50-39.
MVU kept battling in the 4th as Dabrowski and Tyler Cooper would cut the lead down to 6 at 50-44, but that is as close as they would be able to get during the final stretch. 4 unanswered from Caleb Prue would set the lead back to double-digits at 54-44. A 10 point margin the Falcons would be able to hold, thanks to clutch free throws by Taylor Pure, Hatin, and Caleb Prue, preserving the 61-51 victory.
After the game Coach Brian Bonvechio was pleased with the way his team responded after being beat by the Thunderbirds just last week.
“Last week #11 (St. Amour) had 40 points, we just couldn't stop him, so we set out to make someone else try and beat us tonight. I thought Devon Martin and Tyler Jenne really played him tough.”
When asked about how the team was able to respond when the Thunderbirds made their 2nd half urge he added that, “Tonight I was more animated than I usually am, but I try to keep a calm demeanor to let the players know that we don't need to be all worked up and just get back to focusing on what we are trying to do.”
Caleb Prue paced the Falcons with 21 points, while Jason Hatin knocked down 12. Matt St. Amour led the Thunderbirds with 16 and Robert Dabrowski had 12.
The win runs the record for the Falcons to (2-2) on the season, matching the win total from last season's squad. They will resume action tonight when they travel to Mount Mansfield, to face off against the Cougars. That game will be part of a triple-header, with the Freshman tipping off at 4:00, Junior Varsity at 5:30, and Varsity at 7:00.