2019 Games of the Year: 10 to 6

With just days remaining in 2019, we're counting down the best games involving area teams from the past year. Tonight we take a look at the first half of the top ten.

At number 10, this one maybe not on here for how close it was, but for what it meant. Back in March, UVM hosted UMBC in the America East Men's Basketball championship, a rematch of the year before. The Retrievers had actually taken three straight from the Cats: that 2018 title game on a buzzer beater and both regular season matchups in 2019. But the Hoopcats came out determined to change that. Anthony Lamb staked Vermont out to an early lead, and after UMBC went on a bit of a run to cut their deficit to 4, UVM's then-junior forward kicked it up a notch. Lamb hit a couple threes on either side of halftime and finished with 28 points as Vermont pulled away for the 66-49 win, sending them to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

We head back to the high school gridiron for number 9, an early season matchup between St J and Rutland. Hunter Palmieri would run back the opening kickoff for the Toppers, but the Raiders would bounce back after that. Rutland scoring the next three touchdowns, and after a St J answer right before the half, the Raiders' Malik Hendrickson would push the Rutland lead back to two scores in the third. But Rutland just had no answer for Trey Alercio and the Topper air attack. St J would tie it on a pass to Austin Fenoff, and down three in the closing minutes, Palmieri hauled in what would prove to be the winning touchdown in a 35-31 Topper win.

7 and 8 both were played at Kohn Field in Middlebury as the Panthers faced Tufts for NESCAC Championships. We'll start with the women's lacrosse conference title game as the Panthers would jump out to an early lead, emphasis on Earley. Jane Earley scoring on the break the put Midd up 4-3. But the Jumbos would seize control of this one after that. Maddie Norman tallied twice in quick succession as Tufts bounced back to take a 3-goal lead in the second half. But it was that freshman middie that turned things around for the Panthers: Earley would rack up 5 goals and three assists in the game, this free position tying it at 9 with just over 5 minutes left. It was senior All-American Emma McDonagh that provided the winner as Midd won the NESCAC and went on to claim the national title as well.

The other Midd-Tufts NESCAC Championship on Kohn came in field hockey, as the Panthers looked to avenge their only loss of the year. Midd would open the scoring in the second quarter as national player of the year Erin Nicholas fed Emma Johns, but the next two tallies went to the Jumbos. Alexis Chauvette tied it minutes later and Gillian Roeca scored on a redirect after halftime. But Midd rallied. Marissa Baker and Danielle Brown couldn't quite find netting, but Katie George tied the game on the rebound to force overtime. Then in the extra session, Johns' shot created a juicy rebound for Baker who won it for Midd! Fiitingly she would score the lone goal in the national title game two weeks later to seal a fourth crown in five years.

And a wild state title game slides in at number 6. Boys D3 soccer final between Mill River and Green Mountain. The Chieftans had never won a state championship in program history, but seemed well on their way after striking three times in the first half to take a 3-nil lead. But the Minutemen battled back to close within one before halftime, then leveled the score at three a piece early in the second half. This game would head for sudden death where Green Mountain had a would-be winner denied by a handball in the box, awarding the Chieftans a penalty. Senior James Anderson would calmly step up and convert the kick, handing Green Mountain the 4-3 win and their first state championship.