CRAFTSBURY–With the sun shinning outside a packed Craftsbury Academy gymnasium, the Chargers took home the inaugural Stephen Willey Memorial Tournament Championship with a 55-32 win over Mid-Vermont Christian School.
The event honors the late Stephen Willey, a former Craftsbury player who passed away in 2010, and according to the Academy's athletic director Joe Houston, the event could not have gone any better.
"I think this has been exactly what we were hoping it was going to be," said Houston, "We had some great basketball, and all the teams that were here seemed to have had a really great time.
"One of the things that Stephen was all about was competing and playing the game hard, regardless of the score, and I think all of the teams showed that."
Said Craftsbury coach Terry Kelleher, "It is great to be able to honor Stephen's memory (by) playing basketball. I thought the people from Craftsbury did a wonderful job getting this place ready, it was a total team effort, and it was just an enjoyable weekend and it was great to end it with the trophy."
As for the game itself, it would be a battle in the early going for the home team, as the Chargers were behind the eight ball in the first quarter thanks to the Eagles' big man Eli Seale.
Andrew Marckres opened the scoring as he hit for two, but that is where the train stopped for the boys in white.
From then on, Seale took over and went on a personal six point run to put Mid-Vermont up 6-2.
Craftsbury's biggest problem in the quarter was themselves. They were called for traveling on several occasions, limiting their ability to get much rhythm in the quarter. And it was not just your typical traveling calls, they got whistled on the court, in the air, while lying down; you name the position or location, and they got called for it. They might as well have been playing with suitcases in their hands it was so frequent.
But MVC also was on the end of several calls as well, but they (read Seale) seemed to be able to shrug it off and move on.
Anthony Putvain had a chance to make it 6-4, but couldn't convert his free throws.
He would not miss many more.
Austin Sayers wrapped up the quarter with buzzer beating fade-away and it was 8-2 after one.
In the second Putvain got hot. He opened the quarter by hitting the up and under, then hit a jumper to cut the deficit to two.
Seale continued his strong play, scoring off of a steal to put the lead at four.
Freshman Kyle Adams then hit a long jumper, followed it up with a three, and the Academy was up by one.
Putvain came through again, nailing a Sportscenter Top Ten move as he wiggled, twisted, and some how made the scoop shot to put the lead at three.
Said the senior guard, "Well, my teammates were driving and they (Mid-Vermont) were leaving my wide open, and you can't help it when you hit a couple of shots."
Sayers slowed down the Chargers for a moment, dropping in his second bucket of the game, but Adams went right back to work with his second three of the quarter.
With the score knotted at sixteen thanks to baskets from Sayer and Seale, it looked like the teams would head into the break all tied up, however a foul at the buzzer gave Mid-Vermont three free ones from the line.
They made two of three and took the two point lead into the half.
In the third Craftsbury threw down the gauntlet, and the Eagles responded by soaring directly into the sun, seemingly blinded by the ray of light that was the Chargers in the second half.
Assist man extrordinare Alex Vetere kicked off the quarter with a nice dish to Marckres who laid it in with little trouble. Putvain hit for three, and then went 2/2 from the line as the signs that Craftsbury was not going lose this game became apparent.
"We looked at our shot chart at half time and most of their shots were in the paint so we knew we had to go to a zone," said coach Kelleher.
The move definitely paid off, and the Chargers closed out the frame outscoring the Eagles 12-6 to take a 25-24 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
The home town boys rained twenty more points down on Mid-Vermont in the fourth, paced by Putvain's eight and Marckres' six, and it was all over but the celebration.
"The emotions right now are unbelievable," said Putvain after the game, "Before the game we were all jumping up and down, ready to go. Throughout the game and after the game adrenaline just took over for most of our players."
Putvain led all scorers with twenty-two points, and he was followed by Adams with eleven and Marckres with ten.
The Eagles had only two players score in the entire game, Seale with twenty and Sayer contributing twelve.
The boys will get back to action tomorrow when they host Canaan as part of the girls/boys double header starting at 5:00 when the Lady Chargers take to the hardwood.