GM boys take historic hoops title in tense overtime win

By Christian Avard
© 2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

BARRE

The Green Mountain Union High School boys’ varsity basketball team made school history on Sunday.

GM senior Jack Boyle looks to pass.All photos by Christian Avard unless otherwise noted

In their very first appearance in a state championship, the No. 1-seeded Chieftains fought a gritty and hard-earned overtime victory over six-seed Williamstown at the legendary Barre Auditorium, 52-51.

They earned their first ever championship banner and were greeted to a heroes’ welcome upon their arrival back home as they were driven through Cavendish and Chester, arriving at Green Mountain High School around 9:30 p.m.

“It feels great to be part of history,” said Branden Rose, who perhaps made the biggest play of the game.

Sawyer Pippin defends against Williamstown’s Thomas Parrott

Down 43-41 with 11.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils tried to throw the ball in bounds. Rose stole the ball, passed it to Skyler Klezos (12 points), who was wide-open under the basket, and Klezos scored the easy lay-up to send the game into overtime.

“I saw (Williamstown) was about to throw it in and I just jumped in the lane,” Rose said after the win.

After the game, Klezos was at a loss for words.

“He dished it down to me and as soon as he did I didn’t know where anyone was, but I immediately turned to the basket because I knew we needed one,” Klezos said. “It was crazy.”

Brendan Rose, whose steal Coach Rappanotti said “saved the season”

“Rose has come out of nowhere this year,” Green Mountain Head Coach Brian Rappanotti said. “That was a huge steal and he saved the season.”

Jitters got the best of both teams in the early going. Jack Boyle (17 points) hit a three-pointer to break the 0-0 tie and the Chieftains outscored the Blue Devils in a low-scoring first quarter, 7-6.

Boyle scored eight points and made two big blocks for Green Mountain in the second quarter, but the Blue Devils were still in the game. Thomas Parrott scored five points while his teammates Tavien Rouleau, Michael Murphy, Riley Cheney and Brady Donahue each chipped in with two points apiece.

Pippin lofts a shot over several defenders

At halftime, the score was tied at  17-17.

“(Williamstown) ate us up on the high post,” Rappanotti said. “That’s (Williamstown’s) go-to thing. We had a hard time adjusting to that, but at the same time we didn’t want to get their 3-point shooters rolling. It was kind of like picking our poison.”

Green Mountain led 21-17, but the Blue Devils would get the best of them. Blake Clark hit a three-pointer in the final seconds of the third quarter and the Blue Devils led the Chieftains, 28-27.

Green Mountain was on the ropes. Ty Merrill (seven points) fouled out in the fourth quarter and the Blue Devils led 43-41. Then came Rose’s Green Mountain miracle.

The 2020-2021 Division III State Champions: Green Mountain Union High School
Front row left, Sawyer Pippin, Ty Merrill, Skyler Klezos and Jack Boyle
Back row left, Tanner Swisher, Assistant Coach Matt McCarthy, Kagan Hance, Reid Hryckiewicz, Everett Mosher, Branden Rose, Eben Mosher, Austin Kubisek, and Head Coach Brian Rapponatti.

Then in overtime, Rose hit a three-pointer to take the lead. Donahue of Williamstown tied the score at 46-46, but Green Mountain would never relent.

Williamstown missed their shots. The Chieftains made key rebounds, and Boyle sealed the deal with a final basket for the win.

Williamstown Head Coach Jack Carrier was impressed by Green Mountain’s effort.

“They’re a very athletic team,” Carrier said. “They outplayed us and got the ball inside…  We got Klezos and Merrill in foul trouble and we thought we’d have a cushion at the end, but it didn’t happen. (Green Mountain) was able to get into the middle of our zone and hit a lot of key shots.”

Also scoring for Green Mountain were Sawyer Pippin (eight points), Everett Mosher (three points), and Kagan Hance (two points). Parrott led the Blue Devils in scoring with 14 points.

Some post-game antics as GM senior Skylar Klezos holds the championship trophy while teammate Ty Merrill gives it a kiss.

“We kept the ball going and we got the best looks we could,” Boyle said. “Our defense beat their offense and that’s what we did tonight.”

It’s been quite a journey for the GMUHS basketball team. They started late in the season because of coronavirus and they only played nine games. They finished the season at 8-1 with their lone loss against Division III foe Bellows Falls.

Rappanotti commended his senior players after the game: Boyle, Klezos, Pippin and Merrill.

“The senior group has been living and dying, playing three sports a year: soccer, basketball and baseball,” Rappanotti said. “They play all the American Athletic Union basketball circuits. They play any time they’re in gym or they are playing outside three sports in one day. This is a committed group and they matured this year and that was the biggest thing for us.”

The final scoreboard and a 52-51 win by the GM Chieftains.

Families, friends and fans greet the team’s arrival at GMHS, accompanied by local fire departments. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

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About the Author: Christian Avard has been a journalist for 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 Montpelier, is also a sports correspondent with The Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus.

RSSComments (3)

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  1. Phil Perlah says:

    Congratulations!

  2. Sharon Jonynas says:

    Wow – just wow! Congratulations to all of the players and parents and fans. This is historic. Way to go, GM.

  3. Richard C. Hoyt says:

    Congratulations guys! Nice to hear such good news about GMUHS!
    Makes this old teacher proud.

    Dick Hoyt
    Lubec, Maine

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