GMUHS boys’ basketball aims for its 1st state title

Branden Rose, No. 30, hits his second free throw to clinch Saturday’s game against Vergennes. Screenshot from Okemo Valley TV.

By Christian Avard
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Green Mountain Union High School boys’ varsity basketball team has never won a state championship in the school’s history. Could this be the year when they finally win it? We don’t know, but the 2020-2021 Chieftains are definitely the team to beat.

The Chieftains finished first place in their division this season with a record of eight wins and one loss. They beat top Division IV teams such as White River Valley, Rivendell, Twin Valley, and West Rutland and Division III foe Leland & Gray. Green Mountain’s only loss was against the other Division III foe Bellows Falls.

GMUHS Boys’ Varsity Head Coach Brian Rappanotti said this team is the best he’s seen in 10 years of coaching. When asked why that is, Rappanotti attributed it to his team’s athleticism.

Seniors Jack Boyle (center), Ty Merrill (guard), Sawyer Pippin (forward) and Skyler Klezos (forward) are all-around star athletes. They’ve been playing sports together since middle school and, over the years, have developed a great team chemistry.

They all played on the 2019 and 2020 State Champion runner-up soccer teams, as well as in Amateur Athletic Union basketball. So they know what it takes to win big games.

“These guys have kind of been here forever, they’ve really been carrying the team,” said Rappanotti. “Winning has instilled discipline and they want to win more.”

The Chieftains’ top strength is their defense. According to Rappanotti, Pippin (forward) has been the team’s defensive stopper. Pippin “can play defense for all 32 minutes,” Rappanotti said. “He has embraced that role and the team feeds off his playmaking.”

At 6-foot-2, Boyle (center) is the team’s big man.  His role has been containing the opposing teams’ big players. And Boyle has been effective in the rebounding department.

Rappanotti said Klezos (forward) “can guard anyone on the floor.” Merrill (guard) has made terrific contributions to the  team’s defense, he added.

Rounding out the starting five is junior Everett Mosher (guard). Rappanotti said Mosher not only plays great defense, but — as the team’s point guard  — controls the tempo of their offense.

“We started to gel offensively in the last four games,” Rappanotti said. “They are playing unselfishly and I think they want to win. They’re on a mission.”

The Vermont Principals Association, the group responsible for organizing the state championship, awarded the Chieftains the No. 1 seed in the Division III tournament. Playoffs began on March 16 and the Chieftains are rolling along. They eliminated 16-seed Oxbow in the first round, 62-34, and on Saturday they fought off eight-seed Vergennes, 58-57, in a tough back-and-forth battle that went to overtime.

In that game, Mosher forced the game into overtime, hitting a 3-pointer with only 13 seconds left in the game. Junior Branden Rose (Guard) hit two foul shots to seal the win for the Chieftains.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, Green Mountain will  face 12-seed Thetford Academy, the two-time defending Division III champions. The game will be played at Green Mountain, but because of Covid restrictions, spectators are not allowed in the auditorium.  If the Chieftains beat Thetford, the Chieftains will play the winner between seven-seed Enosburg and sixth-seed Williamstown, Sunday at the Barre Auditorium.

The Chester Telegraph will be covering Wednesday’s game.

Okemo Valley TV will be livestreaming the game, which you can watch on its Youtube channel by clicking here.

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About the Author: Christian Avard has been a journalist for more than 15 years, having written for Vermont publications such as The Deerfield Valley News, The Rutland Herald, The Commons and The Chester Telegraph. He also edited The Message for the Week and The Vermont Standard. Avard, who currently lives in Lebanon, N.H., is also a sports correspondent with The Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus.

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  1. Richard C. Hoyt says:

    Brings back fond memories. GMUHS remains a warm spot in this 82-year old heart!
    Best wishes.
    Dick Hoyt