NEWPORT–The weekend's most anticipated game in Orleans County had to be the showdown between MVU and North Country in boy's basketball action.
The NCU gym was packed with the biggest crowd I have ever witnessed, all waiting to see how the new look Falcons fared against the state's top player Matthieu St.Amour and the rest of the Thunderbirds.
Players from Lake Region and UCA flooded into the gym, eager for play to begin.
Well the fans got their money's worth that is for sure, as St. Amour had a game high 45 points and the Falcons won 94-90 in thrilling fashion, satisfying all of the spectator's wants and needs.
Coach Bonvechio predicted excitement in the team's preview, and he wasted little time reminding the press of the fact after the game.
"I think I promised when we spoke in the preseason that there would be one word to describe our team, and that would be entertaining," said Bonvechio. "Was that entertaining or what? Did you get your money's worth?" he added with a chuckle.
To nobody's surprise, it was St. Amour getting the ball rolling, dropping in his first points of the night. Jason Hatin answered with a free throw.
Tyler Cooper, not St. Amour, was the go to guy for the Thunderbirds in the first quarter, scoring eleven of his team's eighteen points.
Earlier, Bonvechio spoke how he was going to sub players in and out all game long to keep them fresh, and true to his word he did, and in turn got scoring from six different players, with Keenan Warner leading the way with four points.
The second quarter was a wild, high scoring, action packed and physical eight minutes of high school basketball complete with a hilarious moment of fan participation at the end.
Trailing to begin play, the Falcons went on the attack. Hatin scored two out of a possible three on an and-one play, Alex Duso match him with a MVU two. Tyler Paxman got into the action with a three, followed by a St. Amour bucket.
St. Amour would get off for sixteen points in the quarter, but North Country didn't give it a second thought, and continued to play their brand of basketball.
Kendrick Gray hit both of shots of his 1-1 to spark a 8-5 NCU run that left both teams tied with 4:55 left in the half.
Back and forth it went, mainly looking something like this: St. Amour hits, the Falcons answer. The Falcons hit, St. Amour answers.
Someone gets close to St. Amour, he flops worse than an Italian soccer player.
You get the picture of where this one is going.
Anyway, after Colton made a basket and -one with less than ten seconds to go, bringing the score to 44-38, the funniest moment of the game occurred, courtesy of the aforementioned fan participation.
MVU's Troy Rocheleau started down the court, and with six seconds on the clock the crowd chanted in unison, "3,2,1" and Rocheleau fell for it hook line and sinker.
Tyler Paxman then calmly put in a three at the buzzer, and now the T-Birds' lead was just three at 44-41.
The third quarter was the only quarter where North Country out-scored the Thunderbirds, hitting for 24 compared to 11 from MVU.
Again, like the first two quarters, six different players scored the Falcons, led by Duncan's three threes and and Hatin's three twos.
Paxman and Tyler Sanville also hit from downtown, while Connor Hogan had two and Gray one.
All said and done, it was the Falcons ahead 65-55 to start the fourth.
MVU is the reigning Division II state champs, and their play in the fourth was both impressive and at the same time unsightly all at once.
The good part for the team was they banged home 35, mainly on the back of St. Amour, who had 22 points, to create one heck of a finish.
The bad, is that as well as St. Amour scored, his attitude was equally as bad.
Whether or not that is a reflection of his head coach Jim Bose, whose court side antics were down right embarrassing for a head coach in charge of leading and teaching kids, I don't know.
But just like he led his teammates in their comeback, he was also at the top of the pack in poor sportsmanship, eventually fouling out with 1:12 left to play.
Most fans would agree it probably should have happened earlier, but you know what a superstar driven league this is.
Oh wait, that's the NBA, not Vermont High School Basketball, but you get the gist of it.
Anyway, let's leap ahead to the last nineteen seconds of the game.
The two teams basically traded a couple of threes, some twos, and ton of foul shots to get to this point.
MVU had brought themselves to within one point of NCU on an and-one play by Nathan Lumsden.
The Thunderbirds then got T'd up and Matt Duncan went to the line to shoot two.
Done and done,and it was 90-87 with the Falcons having possession.
Warner then hit one free throw to push the lead to 91-87, but Alex Beebe hit for three and it was back to a one-point game, 91-90 with seven seconds left.
Everyone knew what was coming, MVU had to foul, and foul they did, sending Duncan back to the line, where he made one.
North Country then got the ball back again, and it was Hatin calmly putting in both of his freebies to seal the win for the Falcons, and send home an irate group of MVU fans.
"We gave them some stupid fouls, but we pulled through. Hatin hit clutch free throws at the end off of my miss and seals the game," said Duncan. "Confidence is everything in this game, and if we've got confidence, we can beat any team out there."
Duncan and Hatin were both tremendous in this game, and said Bonvechio of the two, "In Hatin, I don't think there is a stronger player in the state than he is. Strong and fast, so it is tough to defend him. And Duncan, I give him the green light, and when he is hot, he shoots the ball as well as any kid I've ever seen, with an incredible range."
One of the best stats of the game was not the fact that Duncan had a team high thirty, followed by fifteen from Hatin, it was that two other players were in double digits (Paxman 10, White 11), and every member of the team had at least one point, and all of those points were needed.
"I said along that we are twelve guys deep, and I saw a great job tonight," said Bonvechio. "Someone like Jesse Breault, who I' m not sure if he scored one basket tonight (Ed. Note: he did), he still played a huge role in what we did.
This was a perfect example of a team win, and I expect we are going to see much more of this type of game as the season rolls on.
Next for 1-1 NCU, is the first of two trips to Franklin County this week for the team.
It’s BFA on Tuesday before their rematch with now 2-1 MVU on Thursday.