Montpelier 58, Hartford 49: Wait continues for Hurricane boys basketball

Hartford teammates Evan Lynds and Brayden Trombly react to their 58-49 loss to Montpelier at the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford teammates Evan Lynds and Brayden Trombly react to their 58-49 loss to Montpelier at the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's Zach Johnson looks for an outlet with Montpelier's Atif Milak and Kleo Bridge guarding him during the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's Zach Johnson looks for an outlet with Montpelier's Atif Milak and Kleo Bridge guarding him during the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Jennifer Hauck

Hartford's Noah Danieli takes aim at the basket during their game with Montpelier at the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's Noah Danieli takes aim at the basket during their game with Montpelier at the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

Hartford's Sean Dunton (0) and Evan Lynds (2) try to stop Montpelier's Carter Bruzzese during their game at the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's Sean Dunton (0) and Evan Lynds (2) try to stop Montpelier's Carter Bruzzese during their game at the VPA D-II boys basketball championship in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Hartford's student section cheers for their team at Barre Auditorium during their VPA D-II boys basketball championship game with Montpelier in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's student section cheers for their team at Barre Auditorium during their VPA D-II boys basketball championship game with Montpelier in Barre, Vt., on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Montpelier won, 58-49. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-03-2024 10:08 AM

Modified: 03-03-2024 7:45 PM


BARRE, Vt. — It will take at least another year to supplant Hartford High’s Whirlwind Five.

That’s the nickname given to the last Hurricanes’ boys basketball team to win a state title — in 1929. Sadly for backers of the red, white and blue, that designation remains in place following their team’s 58-49 loss to Montpelier in Saturday’s VPA Division II championship at the Barre Auditorium.

Top-seeded Hartford led by five points during the second quarter before the Solons embarked on an 18-4 run that built a 33-24 halftime advantage. The Hurricanes pulled within five points with 1 minute, 22 seconds to play, but Montpelier then sank six free throws in a row to capture its fourth consecutive crown.

“They’re 16- and 17-year old boys, and we haven’t been here before,” said Hartford coach Mike Gaudette, whose program last reached a final in 1933 and who attributed his team’s inadequate shooting mostly to nerves.

“No one alive in Hartford has played here at this stage before,” injected athletic director Jeff Moreno with a rueful chuckle.

The Hurricanes hit 18 of their 40 field-goal attempts, but it wasn’t enough against a group of Solons so accustomed to dominance that they accepted the title plaque politely but with a collective shrug. Montpelier, making its fifth consecutive championship appearance and starting five juniors, eliminated Hartford in last year’s quarterfinals.

Post man Brody Tyburski led Hartford with 11 points, followed by Kole Fotion with nine, Sean Dunton with eight and Zach Johnson with six. Christian Hathorn, who led the Hurricanes with 16 points during its semifinal victory, was held to four points.

Carson Cody topped Montpelier with 17 points, and aggressive 6-foot-5 post player Atif Milak added 16 points and five blocks.

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“We got good looks, but we missed shots we usually make,” Gaudette said. Milak “altered a lot of our shots. We talked about using pump fakes, but even when we did, he did a good job of staying on his feet.

“What really hurt us was the last four minutes of the second quarter. We should have gone into halftime down four.”

Hartford trailed, 26-24, with 1:40 to go before halftime, but Cody drained a three-point bucket and ended the Hurricanes’ last two possessions before the break with steals and breakaway layups.

“Against a good team like that, it’s hard to recover,” Gaudette said, noting that his team’s lack of baskets limited its chances to set up a press defense with the Solons inbounding from under their hoop. “When we pressed, we turned them over, but we just couldn’t sustain offensive consistency.”

Gaudette said that if attackers turn their backs to the rim, Montpelier immediately sends a second defender to create a surprise double-team.

“We lost track of that tonight a few times,” he said. “That’s probably the best team we saw defensively all year. We had a few mental breakdowns and that’s OK.

“Our players’ tears show me they care.”

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Notes: The teams did not clash during the regular season. … Actual attendance looked to be a few seats short of a sellout at the 1,650-seat Auditorium, built in 1939. … Hartford’s last trips to the Aud before this year came in 1958 and 1984. … Auditorium ushers wear maroon blazers with gold buttons and appear to mostly be pleasant octogenarians.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.