For the first time in 27 years, the South Burlington boys basketball team took the floor at the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gym.
The evening did not go as planned.
South Burlington fell to No. 1 Rice, 75-62, on Wednesday, March 4, in the Division I high school semifinals, ending a run that saw them advance to the final four for the first time since 1984.
“We will always look back on this class,” said South Burlington coach Solomon Bayer-Pacht. “I am just sorry for them that they didn’t get to have a better experience here.”
The first quarter started off slowly as both teams adjusted to the nerves of the big stage. But an 8-0 run to end the second quarter gave the Green Knights a 33-22 lead at halftime.
“You felt the weight kind of building as they were hitting them and we weren’t,” Bayer-Pacht said. “I knew the start was going to be important. ... I think that definitely hurt, not getting going.”
Rice did not slow down from there, they opened their lead up to 51-30 at one point in the third quarter. South Burlington responded to score the final nine points of the third frame but it was too little, too late.
“We just never really got in our rhythm offensively,” Bayer-Pacht said. “We weren’t quite flowing in the first half. It was too bad to never see of us find the gear we are capable of.”
The fourth quarter, which saw a brief opening for the Wolves when Michel Ndayishimiye went out with four fouls, brought out the whistles. Both teams hit the bonus early in the quarter.
Unfortunately for South Burlington, the Green Knights could not miss from the free throw line.
The two teams shot 34 free throws between them in the final quarter, with Rice making 20 out of their 22 shots from the foul line.
“It was impossible in that fourth quarter to get any kind of momentum,” Bayer-Pacht said. “You get down by 12 and a team like that shoots 97 percent from the free throw line, it’s hard to come back.”
Khalon Taylor finished with 19 points to lead South Burlington and Adam Devine added 18 points.
Evan Parker, the team’s leading scorer this season, had 10 points for the Wolves.
“The team, they did a nice job off ball on him (defensively),” Bayer-Pacht said. “They did a good job making his life difficult.”
Despite the final result, the coach is proud of what his team has accomplished this season.
“They should be nothing but proud,” Bayer-Pacht said. “They never stopped playing, they never stopped trying.”
The group’s five seniors have been building to the Patrick Gym appearance for all four years.
“I hope there is no disappointment because they have changed this program forever,” Bayer-Pacht said. “When they were in eighth grade we were 4-16 and barely made the playoffs.
“The growth that has happened the last four years … they have changed South Burlington going forward.”