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Mitch's Sports Report: Albany Upset A Big Opportunity For UVM In Mens' Hoops Tournament Hopes

The highlight of the night in UVM's 99-82 win over Maine at Patrick Gymnasium in the America East quarterfinal playoffs last night was a forty-five foot, half-court buzzer beater by Cam Ward that hit nothing but net as time expired in the first half.

That Hail Mary bucket padded UVM's already big lead to twenty-one points and the Catamounts never looked back, recording their sixth straight victory. Ward was terrific from long range all night, hitting six shots from beyond the arc and finishing with twenty-four points to tie a career-high, and while UVM was dispatching the sixth-seeded Black Bears, there was a gargantuan upset going on in Albany, where the second-seeded Great Danes were ousted by number seven Hartford 68-59. This opens up a big window of opportunity for UVM. Now, instead of heading out on the road for the semi-final game, the Catamounts will stay in the friendly confines of Patrick Gym to host number four New Hampshire Monday night. The Catamounts are getting hot at exactly the right time after an up and down regular season, and having their arch nemesis out of the way clears a path toward and America East title and a trip to the big dance.

There was a classic playoff contest in the boys' high school hockey semi-finals last night, with CVU and Essex going to overtime to decide who would move on to the title game. It looked like the Hornets had punched their ticket until CVU's Richard Hall scored on the power play with just twenty-five seconds left to tie the game at one. But in the overtime frame, the Hornets got a power play of their own and Maverick King made it count, rushing across center ice and into the Redhawks' zone where he blasted a slap shot home for the game winner. Goaltenders on both ends of the ice kept this one tight, with CVU freshman Blaine Moore making twenty-four saves on the night, while his counterpart Erik Short had twenty-one stops for Essex, who will play for the Division one state championship next Thursday against the winner of the match-up between top-seeded BFA-St. Albans and number four Spaulding.

In girls' high school Division one hockey the Essex Hornets are getting a chance at a three-peat. Buoyed by a twenty-one save, shut-out performance from goalie Vika Simons, the top-seeded Essex girls beat number four Rutland 2-0 last night, and for the fifth straight year will make it to the state finals. Trying to get in the way of the Hornets' third straight championship will be the third seeded BFA-St. Albans Comets, who skate against Essex at Gutterson Fieldhouse next Wednesday. The Comets took out second-seeded Middlebury 5-2 in the other semifinal, with Aliza Ellis recording a hat trick to power BFA.

Moving on to the girls' high school hoops playoffs, in Division two, Mill River toppled  Randolph 60-33, powered by seventeen points from Haley Hull. The Minutemen will play for the D-2 State Championship against top-seeded Fair Haven Saturday at Barre Auditorium. It should be a good one, as both teams have one win each against each other in two previous regular season games.

And in Division four, West Rutland defeated Proctor 43-37, and will head to the state title game taking on top-seeded Mount St. Joseph.

In the pro game, the Boston Celtics have now won four in a row, and twelve straight at home after a 116-93 walloping of the Portland Trail Blazers in Boston last night. Isaiah Thomas led the way with thirty points,  and six other Celtics reached double figures on the night, and it's not as if the Blazers came in as a push-over. With the loss, Portland had its six-game road winning streak snapped.

One other NBA game of note last night, the L.A. Clippers trailed the Oklahoma City Thunder by twenty-two points with just seven and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, and lost. The Clippers went on a stunning 26-5 run over the last seven and a half to stun the Thunder 103-98.

In the NHL, beware the Ducks. Mired in last place in late December, Anaheim is now tied for first place in the Pacific division and they won again last night, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in an overtime shootout. Jakob Silfverberg got the only goal in the breakaway derby, and Jamie McGinn, acquired from Buffalo at the trading deadline, scored in his debut for the Ducks. Alex Galchenyuk scored twice for the Habs, who would gladly swap narratives with the Ducks. The Canadiens were one of the league's hottest teams early in the season, but are now staring at a post-season no-show.
The Boston Bruins are in the running for a playoff spot, but they have a horrific slate of games against elite teams coming up, beginning tonight when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.