NEWPORT–The North Country boys basketball team is in a state of flux right now. The team has been trying to establish an identity as a defensive minded physically and mentally tough group, but with a stream of players going in and out of the line-up as of late, it has been tough.
"We started off 4-3 and we are now 4-9. We are on a six game losing streak and we are frustrated," said coach Brian Bonvechio, "We feel like we are playing hard enough, but we are not getting things done that we need to."
Heading into Monday's contest with Mount Mansfield, the boys were without Jason Hatin due to illness, Taylor Prue with an injury, and Jacob Buckles, who was dismissed from the team due to policy violations. With a retooled line-up that included recent J/V call-ups Matt Duncan and Connor Hogan, the team fell to the Cougars 75-38.
It probably did not help that the game started over a half an hour late, but I digress.
As the game got underway, the Falcons were hanging in there against a bigger MMU squad, using their quickness to counter their opponent's size.
Colton White opened the scoring, taking a Steve Raboin pass and converting it for two.
TJ Wesson answered for the Cougars with a three.
A Tyler Paxman jumper put NCU back on top 4-3, but MMU kept coming.
Tom Lacy put the visitors up by one, only to have Caleb Prue take the lead right back.
After Eric Suder went one for two from the line to tie the game, Prue hit again for North Country's last lead of the contest at 8-6.
The Cougars would take it from there, scoring nine straight to close out the quarter leading 15-8.
North Country only managed to get seven points in the second as White and Raboin each hit for two and Duncan fired in one of his trademark long high arcing threes.
Mount Mansfield got sixteen points from seven different players, and it was 31-15 at the half.
"I think North Country's energy was better than ours at the beginning, but making a couple of shots, and getting into the flow of the game really helped us," said MMU coach Jeff Davis on his teams' ability to wrest control of the game away from NCU.
While MMU spent very little time in the locker room at the break, North Country utilized almost all of the ten minutes to try to get their bearings, and they came out with a much better third quarter.
Five points from the Cougars lead off the action in the second half, but the Falcons got a lift from Devon Martin who made nice play, getting the ball to White before falling to the ground.
White made the lay-up then on their next possession fed Prue for two.
Suder scored for MMU, and then White got two on a nice up and under.
The two big men traded baskets again followed by a nice ally-oop from Troy Springer to Cody Sharrow.
Prue would have the final seven points for North Country in the third, scoring off of a stretch pass from Martin, an and-one for the three point play, and two from the line.
Trailing 50-30 with eight minutes to go, North Country scored just eight more points the rest of the way while the Cougars, who apparently train with John Kreese and the rest of the guys at the Cobra Kai Dojo, showed no mercy, laying in an additional twenty-five to sew up the one sided victory.
One nice thing did happen for the Falcons in the fourth as Matthew Benn got into the game late and had a few chances at the bucket, but unfortunately they did not drop.
Said Benn, "I was feeling pretty good and I was trying to make my shots for the team."
Eric Suder led all scorers with 17 points. Caleb Prue and Colton White both hit double digits for North Country, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively.
The 4-9 Falcons travel to Burlington on Thursday to face the 4-8 Seahorses where they hope to end their six game losing streak. Tip-off is at 6:30.