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Rutland’s Kendra Sabotka (12), right, drives to the basket closely guarded by Rice’s Khadija Hussein (12), during a home game at College of St. Joseph

There was a lot of early-season chatter about the strength of the smaller divisions in the Rutland Herald/Times Argus girls basketball power rankings.

The giants of Division I simply aren’t buying it.

BFA-St. Albans and two-time defending champ St. Johnsbury were unranked a week ago, not even appearing on the list of bubble schools. But make no mistake: The Comets and Hilltoppers can flat-out play.

Both teams are still not at the same caliber as unbeaten CVU, but they crack the top 10 this week following recent victories over Burlington. As a result, the Seahorses vanish from the rankings as they attempt to snap a three-game losing skid.

The front-runners in the remaining divisions have made their championship intentions quite clear, with Fair Haven emerging as the class act of D-II. Lake Region and Thetford are at the top of the D-III heap, while unbeaten West Rutland leads the way in D-IV. The biggest movement in this week’s rankings affects Windsor, which drops five spots following a 19-point loss to Fair Haven.

Division II contenders Enosburg (5-1) and Harwood (6-0) are still on the outside looking in, but that could change in a hurry. Last year, the Highlanders won their first playoff game since 2005, and this season, they could make their first trip to the Barre Auditorium in 40 years.

TOP 10

1. CVU (8-0) The Redhawks are outscoring opponents by an average of 73 to 26. They trounced Spaulding, Burlington and Brattleboro last week. Coach Ute Otley is well-positioned to lead the program to a mind-boggling 10th straight championship appearance in D-I.

2. Lake Region (6-0) Sharp-shooter Tia Martinez and the Rangers moved down to D-III this season, and that was music to the ears of most D-II opponents. Lake Region confirmed its state-wide legitimacy with victories over D-I South Burlington and Rice. Friday’s matchup at Harwood will reveal a lot more about both teams.

3. Fair Haven (8-0) The defending D-II champs are averaging 56 points a game and have all the tools to advance to the Barre Aud for the seventh year in a row. Ryleigh Coloutti has been unstoppable for the Slaters, who gained some separation over the rest of the field by defeating D-I Mount Anthony and Brattleboro.

4. Thetford (7-1) The Panthers blazed a path to the Barre Aud the past eight seasons and are relying on their signature athleticism and balance this time around. Thetford spoiled Springfield’s perfect record Monday, with Casey MacVeagh and Emma Colby leading the Panthers to a 51-44 victory. Their next test will be Saturday against Lyndon.

5. Essex (6-2) The Hornets extended their winning streak to five games with a 65-35 win over South Burlington and a 57-36 victory over U-32. CVU ended that run with a victory Wednesday. Essex is clinging to the No. 2 spot in D-I and will be gunning for its first title since 2006.

6. St. Johnsbury (5-2) The Hilltoppers got off to a rough start, enduring close losses against Burr & Burton and Rutland. Following four straight victories, they are starting to earn some respect again. Last week St. Johnsbury claimed payback against Rutland with a 46-36 win before outlasting Burlington, 34-28.

7. BFA-St. Albans (6-1) Some of Vermont’s perennial powers have stumbled and the Comets quickly capitalized, surging to the No. 3 spot in the D-I standings. The only setback was a 41-36 loss against Rice, and BFA’s spread-out scoring could help end the program’s 27-year title drought.

8. Rutland (4-3) The Raiders are a team on the rise that could easily punch a ticket to the semifinals for the first time in a decade. They bounced from a loss against St. Johnsbury by earning a 50-27 victory over Woodstock. Rutland also defeated St. J early in the season and boasts quality D-I wins over Essex and Burlington.

9. Windsor (7-2) It’s not easy to stop Yellow Jackets star Olivia Rockwood, but both Thetford and Fair Haven found ways to contain her in the past two weeks. Windsor is still the only team to defeat Thetford this season, and last week’s victories over Brattleboro and Otter Valley helped limit the damage from two losses. The Yellow Jackets will host Rivendell on Thursday.

10. West Rutland (7-0) The Golden Horde have been virtually untested, with the exception of a 56-53 victory over Otter Valley. West Rutland has outscored opponents by an average of 64-30, holding teams to less than 23 points for three straight games. Following Saturday’s contest at Poultney, the Golden Horde will host Proctor (6-1) for a huge clash Monday.

BUBBLEHarwood (6-0), Enosburg (5-1), Burr and Burton (8-2), South Burlington (3-4), Mt. Mansfield (3-4), North Country (3-3), Mt. Abraham (5-2), Burlington (4-4), Rice (3-5).

TOP FIVESDivision II: 1. Fair Haven 8-0; 2. Harwood 6-0; 3. Burr and Burton Academy 8-2; 4. Enosburg 5-1; 5. Springfield 6-1.

Division III: 1. Lake Region 6-0; 2. Thetford 7-1; 3. Windsor 7-2; 4. Oxbow 5-1; 5. Peoples Academy 5-2.

Division IV: 1. West Rutland 7-0; 2. Proctor 6-1; 3. Blue Mountain 6-2; 4. Mount St. Joseph 5-2; 5. Richford 3-4.

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