Pittsford High School certainly closed its doors with a bang.

The Panthers won the 1961 boys basketball championship, whipping Marshfield-Plainfield 49-32 in the title game in the school’s final year.

It was an exciting time. I recall listening to that game on the radio in my bedroom. It seemed bigger than life back then.

The new school that it gave way to down the road in Brandon has not matched that basketball feat over its five-plus decades. Otter Valley has never won a state crown in boys or girls basketball.

The OV girls have never been to a state final, bowing out three times in the semifinal game. The Otters did make it to the state final in 1985 in boys basketball, but endured a 68-64 loss at the hands of Vergennes.

But there could be some excitement in OV’s gym this winter. Dubbed the “House of Noise,” the Otters’ building on Route 7 just might live up to its name.

Former Herald sports editor Bob Fredette, new sports editor Adam Aucoin and myself were airing our podcast on Tuesday and Fredette made the comment he felt the Otter Valley boys team just might be a major surprise this season despite being hit by heavy graduation losses.

I think the Otter Valley girls hoop team will definitely be a surprise and might even make a rare trip to Barre Auditorium to the Division III final four.

The OV girls are in a new division, dropping down from Division II after going 6-14 in the regular season and then throwing a scare into the Lake Region team in the opening round. Lake Region went on to make it to the D-II state finals where the Rangers fell to Fair Haven.

Otter Valley returns everyone from that team, has size, some solid ball handlers, good defenders and should have the cohesiveness that comes from a team returning intact.

Reserving the right to change the pecking order when we do our first power rankings in a couple of weeks, I have the Otters as my No. 4 team in Division III. I have Windsor and Thetford at the top and Lake Region, which also dropped down, as the No. 3 team.

It has been a long dry spell for fans since coach Bob Sharrow’s Pittsford team comprised of Charlie Patch, Jim Conway, Mark Mooney, Bugsy Washburn, Eugene McCarthy, Jack O’Flaherty, Mike Ryan, Lloyd Hier, Robbie Greeno, Nelson Chapman and Dave Churchill thrilled area fans in 1961.

This edition of OV girls basketball might not be the school’s first to win a hoop title, but they could make make a heck of a run at it and stir the passions of hoop fans starved for a title.

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That state title won by the Pittsford boys in 1961 was the only championship the Panthers won in the sport. Brandon High School, the other forerunner of Otter Valley, never got to the championship game in boys basketball. The Bison did make it to three semifinal games.

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Middlebury College head football coach Bob Ritter landed a huge honor on Tuesday when he was named D3football.com’s East Region Coach of the Year.

The Panthers went 9-0 this season, but there can’t possibly be a better weekend than the one Ritter experienced in late October of 2014.

He and his Panthers were huddled around a computer on the bus headed to Hartford, Connecticut to play a Trinity team that had not lost at home in 53 games.

They were watching Bob’s son Bobby Ritter’s game that Friday night on the Northeast Sports Network. Bobby was playing for Middlebury Union High School and had fallen behind in its quarterfinal game by a score of 6-0.

They did not stay behind for long. The Tigers won 54-6 with Bobby Ritter rushing for 218 yards on only six carries. That is not a misprint — six carries.

Some of Ritter’s assistant coaches were former Tigers and the bus was erupting as the play unfolded on the computer screen.

The next day, Middlebury College did something that nobody else had done in 13 years — defeat Trinity on the Bantams’ home field.

It would be difficult to say which ride was more joyous — the one to Connecticut or the one back home.

tom.haley

@rutlandherald.com

Follow Tom on Twitter: @RHSportsGuy

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