Eagles hang on to punch ticket to semifinals

ARLINGTON — Last year in the quarterfinals of the Division IV tournament, the Arlington boys basketball team came up short in an overtime loss to Danville. This time around, the Eagles came out standing tall as No. 3 seed Arlington defeated No. 6 seed South Royalton on Saturday 52-45 to advance to the semifinals.

"It's great to see us advance to the semifinals," said Arlington boys basketball coach Chris Taft. "We made some big plays down the stretch to get win. The atmosphere surrounding the game in the gymnasium was great. It was a great basketball game to be apart of and its great that we came out on top."

Arlington began the contest on fire from the field, knocking down four three-pointers in the first quarter to take 17-10 lead over the Royals.

Senior Alex Paustian extended the Eagles' lead to nine in the second quarter, stealing the ball from a Royals' player and then racing down the court to knock in a layup.

Paustian scored all of nine for his points for Arlington in the first half.

The Eagles led 24-13 with under three minutes to go in the second quarter, before South Royalton went on a 8-2 run to end the half to cut the Arlington lead to five going into halftime.

South Royalton got the Arlington lead down to one when Dalton McDougall knocked in a layup midway through the third quarter.

Seeing its double-digit lead go up in smoke, Arlington got its offense clicking again as a Jack Lane three-pointer helped spark a 7-0 run to finish out the quarter, giving the Eagles a 37-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"It felt great to make a huge shot like that to give us a lot momentum," Lane said. "We needed a little spark there with South Royalton making a comeback on us. I knew that I was someone my team was looking to in that moment and I'm happy I was able to come through for my team."

Lane knocked in three shots from downtown and finished with 10 points in the contest for Arlington.

Arlington took a 43-31 lead with five minutes left to play after Ben Fugener swished in both his free-throw attempts at the strike.

Fugener was overall four-of-five from the free-throw line in the contest and scored eight points in the game for Arlington.

Just like in the first half though, Arlington couldn't keep its double-digit lead intact and saw South Royalton battle back to make it a four-point game with a little under three minutes left to play.

The Eagles' lead then shrunk to two just seconds later when Arlington couldn't grab control of the defensive rebound, allowing South Royalton's Nicholas Howe to get the offensive board and knock in a layup to make it a one possession game.

Howe was a thorn in the Eagles' side all afternoon, scoring a game-high 28 points for South Royalton.

Still up two as the clock ticked under 90 seconds left to play, Arlington caught a break when Darren Golden made a steal on Howe's pass and dribbled down the court to bank in a layup to extend the Eagles' lead to four.

McDougall then came up empty from three-point range for South Royalton on its next possessions, forcing the Royals to foul Arlington's Jared Lacoste and send the senior to the free-throw line.

With the game in his hands, Lacoste knocked in both of his free-throw attempts to extend the Eagles' lead to six.

After Howe missed a shot on the Royals' next trip down the court, Lacoste grabbed control of the loose and forced South Royalton to send him to line once again. Lacoste went one-of-two from the line seal the game up for Arlington, sending the Eagles to the semifinals.

"Things started to slip away from us there towards the end of the game, but we dung deep to pull this one out," Lacoste said. "It feels great to win and advance to the semifinals. Making it to the semifinals has been a goal of mine throughout my high school career and our team's goal this year, so to be able to achieve that is great."

Lacoste finished with a team-high 14 points scored in the win for Arlington.

As a team, Arlington knocked in six three-pointers in the contest.

"The team has worked hard all season long to make it the semifinals and see them do that is great," Taft said. "Being able to play up in the Barre Auditorium is very special and I am excited for the team to experience that. Hopefully will be able to put on a good show in the semifinals."

With the win, the Eagles improve to 16-6 on the season and will play Proctor in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Reach sports editor Steven Bassin at 802-447-7567 ext 112 or @SBassin_Banner


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