GM girls exit court with a smile despite 59-35 loss to West Rutland

The GM girls from left, are Maddie Ortego, Colie Roby, Sophia Cherubini, Kyra Burbela,
Karen Vargas, Grace Tyrrell, Luna Burkland, Kim Cummings, Ainsley Merrill and
Linsey Miles. All photos by Courtnay Spaulding.

By Evan Chadwick
©2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Chieftains hung with West Rutland for more than three quarters, but the Golden Horde’s size and full-court pressure defense allowed them to pull away late on their way to a 59-35 victory over a feisty Green Mountain squad on GM’s home turf.

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“There are tons of positives to take away from this game,” said Coach Jeffrey Buffum. “We gave West Rutland a tough challenge for three quarters. We didn’t back down. We came to play. ”

It didn’t take long for the Chieftains to take the lead. The opening tip fell into the hands of the Chieftains dynamic point guard, Kim Cummings, who split two defenders and finished a left-handed layup to give Green Mountain the early lead.

Pounding the ball in the paint and controlling the offense glass stemmed an 8-0 West Rutland run that earned the visitors an 8-2 advantage four minutes in.

Despite giving up several inches to her opposing front court, Chieftains center Luna Burkland used her physicality to battle the Golden Horde bigs, hitting two free-throws, then finishing a baby hook that pulled the Chieftains to within two at 8-6.

“Luna Burkland is a strong kid,” said Coach Buffum. “She won’t let anyone push her around. They [West Rutland] had several inches on her, but she took it right at them.”

The Chieftains struggled the remainder of the quarter despite getting good looks at the hoop. West Rutland would continue to attack the rim and facilitate touches to their post players on every possession, which allowed them to close the quarter on an 8-2 run increasing their advantage to 16-8 by the end of the first.

After the Golden Horde hit two free throws to extend their lead to 10 early in the second, the Chieftains found some offensive rhythm. A pretty give-and-go from Cummings to Burkland cut the Horde lead to eight. Karen Vargas’ coast-to-coast drive trimmed the Golden Horde lead even further at 20-13.

The Chieftains defense also began to pick up steam, forcing several turnovers that gave them opportunities to cut into the Golden Horde lead even more. Unfortunately, despite breaking the West Rutland press with ease and getting several good looks from mid-range, the Chieftains continued to struggle hitting any buckets outside the paint.

Number 14 Grace Tyrrell heads down the court.

“It’s hard to shoot when your shot is challenged, [your] percentage goes way down,” said Buffum. “West Rutland is an elite team and they aren’t gonna give you freebees.”

West Rutland would, after four missed shots by the Chieftains, hit an elbow 3-pointer that pushed their lead back to double digits at 24-13.

Fueled by a sense of urgency, Green Mountain fought back. Grace Tyrell drilled a corner jumper and Vargas followed with a pull-up, getting the Chieftain bench on their feet and Coach Buffum applauding the effort.

In what may have been the biggest stretch of the contest, West Rutland would score 4 points in the final 30 seconds of the half that included a buzzer-beating layup that allowed them to reclaim an 11-point cushion at halftime.

“We gave up points we shouldn’t have,” said Buffum.

Whatever was drawn up during the half-time break seemed to resonate with the Chieftains early in the second half. Fueled by a Cummings corner 3 and a Kyra Burbela floater had the Green Mountain faithful optimistic of a second-half comeback.

After two layups by West Rutland that were the product of  four offensive rebounds, Burkland would take a drive from the elbow to the house and again, the Chieftains were down just 8.

Number 4 Kyra Burbela goes for a shot.

It was at this point that the Chieftains needed a perimeter hoop, as they again were able to get stops on the defensive side of the ball. It just wasn’t to be, as several quality hooks rimmed out, failing to close the gap.

West Rutland, which now stands at 8-1 on the season, closed the game out early in the fourth, outscoring the Chieftains 22-7. But it was a hard-earned victory since Green Mountain made them earn every possession.

“I left the gym with a smile and so did the girls,” said Buffum, whose squad drops to 3-7 on the season. “They knew they gave West Rutland everything they had, and that is all I ask for.”

Karen Vargas led Green Mountain with 13 points. Burkland and Kim Cummings followed with 9 apiece. The Chieftains are next in action on Thursday when they travel to Orford, N.H., to face off with Raptors of Rivendell.

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About the Author: Originally from Rochester, Vermont, Evan Chadwick is a practicing attorney who lives in Brattleboro with his family. He is a 2007 graduate of Keene State College and currently coaches the boys' varsity basketball team at Bellows Falls Union High School.

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