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Games of the year: #15-11

Counting down the best contests of 2021
Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 8:42 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After cancellations, postponements, and relocations left and right in 2020, 2021 offered a return to a more normal sports schedule. Well...at least until the last couple weeks. But in any event, we had enough action going on around our area to bring back a holiday tradition. Over the next three days, we’ll count down the top 15 games of the year.

We kick things off at #15 by throwing it back to late March. The D4 boys basketball final featured rivals Proctor and West Rutland. This one was back and forth early: Golden Horde with the early lead thanks to the efforts of Tyler Serrani, he had 20 points on the day. But the Phantoms would rally back to level it up before the break, and then Brennan Crossman went off as part of a 14-4 run to close the third. Jed Nop beat the third quarter buzzer as well to put the Phantoms up 11 with eight minutes to play. But back comes Westside! Tim Blanchard and Noah Davis would get the Horde as close as 1, but down 3 in the closing seconds, Blanchard’s deperation heave was just a bit short and the follow was not enough. Proctor won its fifth title in seven years, 58-57 the final.

At #14, UVM men’s hoops vs App State from the Gulf Coast Showcase a little over a month ago. Cats down much of the way, Justin Forrest putting the Neers up seven with eight minutes to go on this three to beat the shot clock. But Vermont would respond. Justin Mazzulla got to the rack, count the bucket and the foul! And down just one with two minutes to play, Benny Shungu scooped up a rebound and laid it in to give the Hoopcats the lead. Vermont up three in the final 20 seconds, but Adrian Delph with the counterpunch. He used the screen and knocked it down to even things at 63. But with 16.3 seconds on the clock, Shungu walked it up the court, and with time winding down, he used the stepback crossover move and drained the long two to hand the Hoopcats a dramatic 65-63 win.

We head outside for #13, D3 softball final between Fairfax and Oxbow from Castleton. After the Bullets would take an early lead on a wild pitch top one, the Olympians answered. Emma DeGoosh mashes one to center for a two-run blast to give Oxbow its first lead. Fairfax would even it up top five, but the Olympians answered with three more in the bottom half to go up 5-2. Back and forth we went, Olivia Kissinger using the wet infield to her advantage as the Bullets fire back to even it at 5-5 before an inside the park job from Aspen Longmoore helped Oxbow leap back ahead by three. Fairfax thretened big time with a two-out rally in the seventh, but Longmoore made the grab through contact as Oxbow held on 8-6 for their third title in four seasons.

#12 sent us to the pitch in Durham, New Hampshire in November. The UVM men’s soccer team hadn’t won an America East tournament title in six years and hadn’t beaten UNH in five years. That included two losses and two draws in four previous meetings this calendar year. But the Cats were not going to be denied on this day. A physical, defensive game where the two teams only combined for five shots on target and two corners, but in the 68th minute, Yves Borie’s volley from the right corner of the box would prove decisive. Nate Silveira maintained a clean sheet as the Cats won it 1-0 to be crowned America East Champions for the sixth time in program history.

And at #11, the Vermont Lake Monsters roared back to life as a collegiate summer league team this year. In late August, the 2021 squad secured their spot in franchise lore. Hosting Pittsfield in a decisive Game Three of the Futures League Championship Series, Vermont handed the ball to ace Pat Harrington, who mowed through the Suns lineup for five innings. In the bottom of that fifth frame, the Monsters would break the scoreless tie, with Jimmy Evans and BFA grad Colby Brouillette delivering the clutch RBI knocks to stake the home team out to a 3-0 lead. It would stay that way into the ninth, but things got nervy from there. Jack Cooney and Cabot Maher would drive in a pair for Pittsfield to bring it within one. Mike Gervasi very nearly evened things up with this cue-shot to right, but Evans chased it down to let fans catch their breath, and Chris Clark would get Nate Cormier swinging to end it. A 3-2 win handing the Monsters a second title in franchise history.

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