Team Vermont teens play 'ball
Teenagers from Vermont in Northeast America played friendly basketball during an eight-day visit to England (21-28 June). To play in England was an opportunity not to be missed and “… it went great,” said coach Terry Merrow.
Female players’ selection had begun with an invitation to Vermont’s high schools, team formation and then an orientation programme. * Since early May 2016 the teens (aged 16 to 18) have practised together only four times, but as multi-sports players employ skills adaptable to basketball.
Saturday 25 June saw Vermont (visitors) face a Hounslow team (home side) in front of 100 vocal, bi-partisan fans at the Sports Zone, Oaklands College, St. Albans. Hounslow got the first basket, a two-pointer, before Phoebe Parrish equalised for Vermont; within a minute and a half it was 4-4. The home side played catch-up but trailed just 7-8 on three minutes: Parrish and Halle Coloutti (Brooke Raiche assisted) gave the visitors a slim lead. After one minute a Jessie Stockwell rebound (equally solid defence from Ashleay Wilcox) helped the score to 7-10. With a minute still to first-quarter end Vermont maintained control after a late Hounslow surge, now 10-17 adrift. Notwithstanding the home side’s crucial interception and turnover play it was 12-18 at the buzzer with the visitors six points ahead.
The second quarter began with flowing play, highlighted by strong transition and stubborn defence. Vermont made possession count as timely rotation (Jessica Audy, Caroline Tietz and Julia May) aided a 12-21 (nine points) lead half way into the session. Both teams guarded their baskets and managed only a two-pointer each, the score 14-23 with three minutes to quarter end. Hounslow physicality, transition and the game’s first three-pointer helped level the score 23-23 within two minutes. The visitors got the last basket, a two-pointer, for a narrow 23-25 cumulative half-time lead; home side consolation was the 11-7 session win.
Hounslow remained in contention but trailed Vermont 27-30 half way into the third quarter. Good temperament characterised this basketball spectacle; at times physical, but entertaining and sporting camaraderie, with every basket won competitively. Vermont continued to make headway, 29-36 ahead, with two minutes until session end. Tactical advantage delivered the visitors a 32-40 cumulative lead, eight points ahead, at the buzzer; the home side lost this quarter by six points (9-15).
Hounslow started the final quarter on a two-pointer only for Vermont to respond with a double free throw; the former added a rebound and the latter executed a crucial turnover – all during a three and a half minutes’ spree. The score was now 36-44, as the teams took a much-needed time-out. Within the next four minutes a refreshed Vermont repeated the earlier double free throw and Hounslow replied with another two-pointer. The teams traded more baskets for a 44-51 score – a reverse, one-hand delivery the home side’s last two-pointer. In the session’s remaining two minutes Vermont defended the basket valiantly but Hounslow laboured to score six of the final eight points, with a three-pointer on the buzzer, and won the quarter 18-13 but the visitors had held out to win the match 50-53 – victory for Vermont.
Afterwards, in a 15-minute running-clock match Hounslow felt consoled by a 10-5 win over Vermont.
Vermont “… moved the ball up the court well (and is) what was expected,” said Merrow. “Physicality (from Hounslow was)… hard to get used to…” and “… biggest hurdle for the girls but they hung with it.”
The first match for ‘Team Vermont’ ended in defeat last week to a London United side. ‘Team Vermont’, in development terms, is a “… work in progress”, said Merrow, and players strive to “… be competitive.”
Merrow enthused about the “… great experience…” the visit had been for the team and was “… impressed with the quality of basketball…” in England: this was the first time he, and three others in the group, had visited England.
The visitors took in the sites of London before they returned home with a wealth of British cultural experiences. They took in a visit to Lord’s, “the home of cricket”… but that’s a different ball game!
* Enriching Cultural Experiences, (an organisation that ‘…creates life enhancing educational, cultural and special interest programmes…’), arranged the visit to England.
By Ade Adeniji