BARRE — The Enosburg Hornets earned the upset victory and a trip to the DIII state final Thursday night, besting the number-one seed Hazen Wildcats, 66-55.
In the first game of the season, the Hornets took a 14 point loss to the Wildcats, but that game didn’t mean as much as this one.
The Barre Auditorium was packed to capacity as the teams took the court on Thursday night.
Enosburg won the tip, and freshman Devyn Gleason added to the excitement with a deep three in the first minute to put the Hornets on the board.
Gleason tapped in another bucket, giving the Hornets a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes of play.
The Wildcats got on the board with two free throws with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Two free throws by Tommy Benoit extended the lead, but Hazen jumped ahead to an 8-7 lead midway through the first quarter.
Blair Archambault, fouled under the basket, netted two, to cheers of ‘prepare the hammer’ from the Enosburg crowd.
Aiden Kelly earned a well deserved roar from the crowd, taking a charge and regaining possession, shortly after Ethan Williams dropped in two for the Hornets, giving them the 8-12 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Shea Howrigan (correction) nabbed a steal and drained a buzzer beating three to close the first quarter and give the Hornets the 11-17 lead.
Howrigan (correction) got the Hornets started in the second with another deep three, the crowd once again roaring approval.
Owen McKinstry, Shea Howrigan, and Blair Archambault, all worked to move the ball as the quarter progressed.
The Hornet big men did their part, grabbing rebounds and using their size advantage to keep Hazen from getting points in the paint.
Hazen chipped away at the Hornet lead midway through the second, coming within four points until McKinstry hit a free throw to break the Hornet scoring drought.
Seconds later, McKinstry stole the ball and took off on a breakaway for a basket.
Kelly netted a bucket in traffic on a pass from McKinstry, who’d fallen to the floor in a scrum.
Kelly’s second basket of the quarter, moments later, instigated a Hazen timeout. The elated Hornets left the court to the roar of the crowd.
Most games have a lull, and that came at the end of the second quarter in this one.
The energy returned as Enosburg earned possession on a travel and Kelly netted two with seconds on the clock.
The teams left for the half with the Hornets holding a 31-24 point lead.
Kelly and Gleason scored in the opening minute of the third to get the Hornets offense going.
Gleason’s steal and three point bucket stretched the lead to 38-26.
Two free throws brought the Wildcats within ten, but Kelly was quick to respond with a layup, bringing the score to 40-28 with just over three minutes remaining.
Williams made his presence felt, continuing to work the boards.
A Hazen breakaway brought the score to 46-37 Enosburg as third quarter came to a close.
As the fourth quarter began, the Hornet faithful broke into their signature ‘Go bananas’ cheer, a wall of sound in the packed Aud.
Hazen struck first, but McKinstry’s bucket put the Hornets to 50, nine points ahead of the Wildcats.
Hazen, once again, chipped away at the lead from the free throw line--the one place the Hornets’ size advantage couldn’t help.
A Hazen three prompted a timeout, as the Wildcats narrowed the lead to six with just over three minutes remaining.
Hazen struck again, bringing the deficit to four, but Gleason took the line and netted a single free throw.
An Enosburg foul put Hazen back on the line, but the shots were short, and Kelly’s layup extended Enosburg’s lead to seven.
With less than two minutes left in the game, McKinstry and Williams took the line adding to the Hornet lead.
A Hazen three brought the score to 62-55 as the clock fell below two minutes.
Williams came up big for the Hornets, getting a shot-stopping block and a roar of approval.
Benoit was fouled on the play and netted a free throw with 40 seconds on the clock.
Gleason plowed through traffic as the clock fell below forty seconds, taking the line with 18 seconds to go. Ice in his veins, the freshman netted two, putting the game out of reach.
Kelly had his turn at the line, hitting one of two with 10 seconds left.
The crowd went wild as the clock counted down to zero, and the Hornets secured a trip to the finals on Saturday
Aiden Kelly led the Hornets in scoring with 17 points, followed by Devyn Gleason with 13.