The Aud in Barre, Patrick Gymnasium, Krietzberg Arena, and the Gutterson Fieldhouse. These are the places Vermont high school athletes dream of in their sleep, and even in their daydreams in the middle of history class. These are the arenas where the Vermont high school hockey and basketball title games are held. It is the dream of winning a state title, and certain immortality in their hometown. The hits are harder, the slapshots have a few more miles an hour on them, and all of a sudden a kid who has a 15 foot range on her jumper can all of a sudden hit from 20 with a player in her face. It is tournament time in Vermont.
Not only is this an incredible time of the year for the fans and the players, but for those of us who write about and broadcast the games, there is a certain amount of magic for us as well. Most of us are former athletes who never played in a playoff game, much less got off the bench in our high school careers. We see things from another point of view. The crowds are booming, and we feel the electricity in the arenas to the point we are convinced that if the energy was bottled up, the City of Burlington could be powered for a month. Our calls seem to get better, phone lines myseteriously have amazing clarity, and our voices aren’t shot at the end of the night. In fact, forget Ernie Banks saying of “Lets play two”; we want to broadcast three. Yes, this is special for us as well.
The games I have seen during this year’s tournaments have been nothing short of amazing and spectacular. In the boys Division One hockey semi-finals, unbeaten Rutland needed an Alexander Porrier backhanded goal in the second overtime to end BFA Saint Albans dream of another title in a 3-2 Rutland victory. In the girls Division II semi-finals, Missisquoi and Montpelier had to go to overtime, but in part due to some horrendous officiating, the Solons lost 2-1. In the opener, Burr and Burton needed double overtime to defeat Northfield. How can I forget the boys Division II title game where Colchester came from two down in the third to tie the game, then seeing their dream of a second straight title come crashing down in the second overtime as Burr and Burton took out the Lakers 3-2.
There are so many stories that are yet to be written in this year’s tournaments. Down at Lamoille, the Lady Lancers basketball team wants to win a title for their captain Mackenzie Pratt who is out for the rest of the year while she undergoes cancer treatment? How about the 12th seeded Milton boys team who want to win for Jeff Cota, their 6’7 big man who has a rare form of bone cancer? Burlington’s boys team wants to send Tyrone Conley to UNH with their second consecutive title, but of course Rice could stand in the way as Pat Bergmann wants to avenge Burlington ruining the Green Knights chance of a perfect season. When it comes to the Barre Auditorium, who cares what the matchup and storyline is? This is the Aud!! Sports Illustrated rated the Aud as one of the best venues in all of high school basketball. There will be cowbells ringing, and entire towns showing up to cheer their teams on. So many stories to tell, more to come during the next ten days.