The Vermont Division 1 Champion Hilltoppers.
Article courtesy of Michael Beniash/Caledonian-Record.
NEVA BETTER: Bostic shoots down Redhawks, Hilltoppers are repeat champions
March 11, 2019
BURLINGTON — Coming out of halftime tied at 17, St. J Academy needed a spark in the Division I girls' basketball championship.
Enter Neva Bostic.
The senior sharpshooter canned three 3s, including a four-point play to kickstart a pivotal run in the third quarter, and the second-seeded Hilltoppers went on to a 42-35 victory over top-seeded and unbeaten Champlain Valley Union on Sunday at University of Vermont's Patrick Gymnasium.
"I was just open," Bostic said. "I shoot when I'm open."
"She came out firing away in the third and that's exactly what we needed," said teammate Sadie Stetson. "It got us the momentum, got us all fired up and we just carried that the rest of the game."
St. J outscored the Redhawks 14-2 in the third quarter, then held off CVU to avenge its lone two losses of the regular season and become back-to-back state champions.
"This is one is pretty special. Two in a row. Two in a row against CVU," said 25th year SJA coach Jack Driscoll, who now own three state titles. "To get it for our three seniors makes it even more special.
"They had the feeling coming in here today that they could have a strong performance and come out on top. They are confident in their abilities, they trust each other and that showed on the floor today."
Josie Choiniere led St. J with 13 points, including hitting 8 of 9 foul shots. Bostic finished with 10 points and Stetson, named the Vermont Gatorade girls player of the year for a third straight season on Friday, had 12 points, five boards and three assists for St. J, which brings home its seventh title overall and third since 2010.
"It feels so good," said senior Saleena Porter. "We came out and we all worked together. We finally found the chemistry we were looking for all season."
Lara Rohkohl tallied six points and 10 rebounds, six on offense for St. J, while Porter had three points and five rebounds.
Bostic and Stetson played all 32 minutes, while Choiniere, Porter and Rohkohl played 31.
"I told the girls they just got beat by a very good team that had a better day than we did today," said CVU coach Ute Otley. "There's no doubt about that."
Mekkena Boyd (10) and Catherine Gilwee combined for 19 points for CVU (23-1), which was playing in its ninth straight championship game.
Both teams played well in the first half, hitting big shot after big shot. The Redhawks finished the first half 5-of-5 from deep, including four in the second quarter. But Choiniere and Stetson found space too, combining for 13 points. It was tied 17-all at the break.
"We put the past two losses [to CVU] behind us and just came out wanting to win like last year," Stetson said. "We didn't let the records affect us. We came out strong, had another good start."
Then Bostic got going. At the 5:14 mark of the third, she got a tiny pocket of space at the top of arc and let a 3-pointer fly. Fouled on the release, the shot splashed through the net, leading to a four-point play.
Then after two Boyd foul shots, Bostic drilled another 3 for a 24-19 SJA lead. After a Rohkohl layin, Bostic knocked down her third triple, a swish that made it 29-19.
"I was feeling it," Bostic said. "The and-one helped."
Stetson capped the 14-2 burst with a late layup that put the Hilltoppers up 31-19 heading to the fourth.
"Neva was the difference. Her 3s gave us a lot of energy, a real boost," Driscoll said. "It was a major point in the game for us."
Said Otley: "It went from tied to nine like that. It felt like we had some really unlucky bounces of the ball that created those openings for her, and boy did she capitalize."
Bostic, headed to play at Salve Regina University next season, got into a serious groove after returning from an ankle injury in the last game of the regular season. She finishes the playoffs with 15 made 3s and 19 over her final five contests.
"Her confidence has been up since that South Burlington game when she hit five 3s in the first quarter," Driscoll said. "Her mechanics are good. She knows when to shoot, makes good decisions when to shoot. I think having more confidence has made the difference in the playoffs."
The Hilltoppers made good at the foul line in the fourth quarter, hitting 11 of 16 to stave off the Redhawks, who had beaten St. J twice during the regular season — 51-41 on Feb. 16 in the NEK and 49-40 in Hinesburg.
CVU trimmed the deficit to 39-35 late but would get no closer.
It was the final game for Bostic, Porter and Stetson, who will graduate in the spring.
They have left their mark on Hilltopper basketball, helping St. J to three straight final fours and back-to-back state titles.
"We've gotten really close, playing together for four years," Stetson said. "We know what it feels like to win. Hopefully the next group holds the same principles and keeps coming here and getting wins too."
NOTES: Bostic missed the second regular-season meeting with the Redhawks because of a sprained ankle. "I was really excited to play tonight. Watching the CVU game from the bench was probably the hardest game I've had to be a part of." ... The Hilltoppers' defense was fantastic, limiting the Redhawks to single digits in three of the four quarters. "St. J, particularly Sadie Stetson, she's a defensive presence on her side of the floor all the time no matter what," Otley said. "I definitely think at times she took away some options or made our kids hesitate where we had not hesitated earlier this season. Her defensive presence is something for sure."
HISTORY: The Hilltoppers have won seven titles, D-I in 2010, 2018 and 2019 and four in D-II (1981 and '82 and '84 and '85).
SJA (22-2): Saleena Porter 1-1-3, Sadie Stetson 4-4-12, Lara Rohkohl 2-0-4, Neva Bostic 3-1-10, Josie Choiniere 2-8-13. Totals: 12-FG 14-21-FT 42.
CVU (23-1): Mekkena Boyd 2-5-10, Catherine Gilwee 3-0-9, Harper Mead 2-0-6, Kaylee Beyor 2-0-4, Mary Askew 1-0-3, Julia Blanck 1-1-3. Totals: 11-FG 6-11-FT 7-15.
SJA 9 8 14 11 — 42
CVU 8 9 2 16 — 35
3-Point FG: S 4 (Bostic 3, Choiniere); C 7 (Boyd, Gilwee 3, Mead 2, Askew). Total Fouls: S 10, C 20. Fouled Out: C, Ella Woodruff.