By Tris Wykes
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – One of the Upper Valley high school basketball season’s best moments occurred Thursday, moments before Hartford High and Brattleboro tipped off at Hanley Gymnasium.
Upon asking those in attendance to please stand for the national anthem, student public-address announcer Remy Lambert couldn’t come up with the tune on his electronic device. There was an awkward pause, after which Lambert announced he would sing instead, drawing disbelieving laughs.
But sing the senior did, belting out Francis Scott Key’s famous composition with endearing struggles on the high notes and the help of the Hurricanes players. Lambert, who plays soccer for the school, earned a standing ovation.
“Tough situation and he just went for it,” said technology teacher Mike Hathorn.
Lambert’s damn-the-torpedoes performance was in sync with that of the home team, which blitzed the Colonels, 77-56, and improved to 5-0 in pursuit of its first state title since 1929. The title cup from that last championship sits high in a corner of the Hurricanes’ locker room, above a small metal sculpture of the word ‘Believe’.”
Hartford is on a roll but faces a tough stretch against Rutland, Otter Valley, Fair Haven and Mount St. Joseph to close the regular season. The Hurricanes, off to their best start since the 2008-09 campaign, will truly prove themselves during the next two weeks.
“We’ve been fortunate to play teams that aren’t as experienced,” said second-year Hartford coach Jeff Thomas. “This is such a short season. Usually it takes 10 games to get your lineups and rotations set, but we don’t have 10 games.”
Hartford’s Danny Bushway had 22 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Tarin Prior had 16 points and Shea Bean had 10 for the Hurricanes, who also received 8 points and 15 rebounds from Jacob Seaver. Sam Mattocks led Bratteboro (2-3) with 14 points.
Hartford led, 19-11, after a quarter and 37-28 at halftime, despite committing 10 turnovers. Prior earned his first start of the season, switching places in the initial lineup with Aidan Brooks.
“When TP was coming off the bench, it looked like he was forcing it a lot,” said Thomas, whose team was 9-12 last winter. “I think he sat there for four minutes and was raring to go.
“I talked to Aidan about maybe we should start Tarin and his response was great. Against Windsor earlier this season, he wouldn’t go into the game for TP because he said (Prior) was playing too well.”
Prior is an attacking force in soccer and the lacrosse team’s goaltender. The junior seems to be learning that, like an off-speed baseball pitcher, it’s best to vary one’s attack throughout a basketball game. Sometimes you charge pell-mell up court, and sometimes you pull up and dish it off.
“Tarin was great tonight because he made the people around him better,” Thomas said. “If he can do that, he’ll be a great point guard. He’s becoming a good playmaker, where before I think he was a good shooter and scorer.”
One of Hartford’s per-game goals is scoring 17 points per quarter. The hosts hit that mark during all four stanzas Thursday.
“You can’t do that by running sets and passing the ball 10 times,” Thomas said. “We have some really good athletes and I think you should let them go.”
Thomas said Seaver is “tireless and can work all game”, but that the junior needs to be stronger once he’s grabbed the ball. Thomas said he chides Seaver about trying to tip the ball to himself, knowing that beefier post opponents won’t let him get away with that tactic.
“He’s got to get stronger with the ball,” said the coach, who sees a team-wide need to be better on defense.
Many coaches wouldn’t have acknowledged a program’s 90 years of title futility, but Thomas, who previously coached South Royalton and Woodstock to state titles, made t-shirts with 1929 on them and placed that year’s trophy in the locker room upon arrival.
“A lot of people don’t talk about it, but why not? You’ve got to address it,” Thomas said. “But you can’t just dream about it, you’ve got to put the work in.”
Notes: One of Hartford’s assistant coaches is veteran hoopster “Downtown” Bill Brown, who earned his nickname during his real estate career… Hathorn and Hurricanes athletic director Jeff Moreno worked as a team on the game’s audio and video broadcast, the latter interviewing Bushway after the final horn… Thursday was the debut of Hartford’s new scorer’s table, featuring illuminated front panels. Moreno said it cost roughly $2,000 and that plans are in the works for replacing the gym’s bleachers and floor. The gym’s dim lighting situation should be fixed next week, he added… Lambert said he last performed publicly during a middle school play in Hartland and was not awarded a singing part.
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