It will be less than two months from now when Rutland Herald photographers Jon Olender and Hannah Dicton will be going into gyms to capture some of the great high school and college basketball moments of the season.
They will be aiming for that one shot that is memorable either for its action or emotion.
Fans leave with pictures in their mind even if they don’t have a camera at the event. If you see enough games and events, you have a catalogue of images in your mind that won’t go away.
Here are a few of the enduring images from mine.
— Ken Liporto coached football at Windsor and Mount Anthony but it was a game where he was the head coach of Winnacunnet High School in New Hampshire that he supplied an image that will never leave my mind.
His team had led Milford 6-0 in that Division II state championship game and it was only seconds from being able to celebrate the title. The Milford quarterback made a desperation heave in the final seconds from about the 50-yard line. The receiver caught the ball on the 5-yard line and fought his way into the end zone.
Then, the kicker drilled the pressure-packed point through the uprights and it was Milford doing the celebrating.
I went into Milford coach Paul Lavigne’s office to interview him and on the way passed a despondent Liporto who was standing motionless between a tree and the school wall.
I interviewed Lavigne for maybe 20 minutes and, upon exiting the building, saw Liporto in the same place, still motionless. It was the most anguish I have ever seen from a coach after a loss. The picture will never leave me.
__ It was in 2013 that the Castleton women’s basketball team defeated Suffolk University 51-42 for the ECAC Championship.
But is it is not anything from the game that provided the lasting image. It was the postgame celebration.
The song Sweet Caroline, the Boston Red Sox anthem, was playing as the players cut down the net in Glenbrook Gymnasium.
Rutland’s Jack Healey, a big Red Sox fan had just finished broadcasting the game.
He said to me, “I think I’m going to cry.”
— Plymouth State running back Joe Dudek, who broke Walter Payton’s NCAA record for career touchdowns, was playing against Union in an NCAA playoff game in Schenectady, New York.
The artificial turf was slick with snow but Dudek bounced outside and sailed to the end zone from about 50 yards out.
The official turned to me and said, “That was some run.”
— Not every unforgettable moment is on the field. One year at the New England Track & Field Meet, I was sitting in the hotel restaurant in Salem, New Hampshire very late at night with a bunch of coaches. Harwood’s John Kerrigan, Mount Anthony’s Steve Zemianek and Rutland’s Greg McClallen and Rick Eaton were the among them.
They took out a napkin and began drawing up plans on it for a Meet of Champions that would boast all the top performers across all divisions.
It was a meet that materialized and was around for several years.
— Another off-the-field moment that endures: Jack Bourgoin, who Rutland High folks remember for his stint as the school’s athletic director, was just hired to be the head coach at Fall Mountain Regional in New Hampshire.
He was trying to assemble a staff so one night I drove him over to Howie Rice’s house in Westminster.
It was a sight to see, Bourgoin and Rice moving around salt and pepper shakers, utensils or whatever they could find, to simulate formations and plays at the kitchen table.
There was magic in those salt and pepper shakers, Bourgoin’s team was 9-0 that first year in 1980.
— It was the first play of Rutland High graduate Elise Magro’s college basketball season. She scored on an athletic running layup on the first possession of the season.
The feeling was that the play held promise. It did. She was named Little East Conference Rookie of the Year.
— The image of base umpire Steve Marro chasing the deer off the field and back into the woods to end the deer delay in an American Legion baseball in South Royalton will never go away.
Wildlife is a part of the sports scene in Vermont. Just ask Proctor High soccer fans who had their field made unplayable by skunks this fall.
— The player will remain nameless but the picture of Bellows Falls football coach Bis Bisbee in the players’ grill, his hands pulling the player’s shirt close to him saying, ‘”I don’t teach football that way,’ is unforgettable The Terrier had just tripped an opponent in the secondary.
— Softball is a game where once in a great while you do see a right fielder taking a base hit away by gunning the batter out at first base.
But from center field? Rutland High’s Ashley Porter threw a batter out from there by charging the ball and firing a laser to first.
What made the play such an enduring image was that it came in the bottom of the 11th inning at Otter Valley to preserve a victory.
— Ella Taranovich could figure skate. I would look out the window of the warming hut at the Proctor rink when I was young and watch her, wondering how she could possibly execute the moves.
She was a great family person and, in fact, her daughter Linda was in my high school class. I wonder if she could not have reached Olympic strata had she the time to devote to the sport.
She died three years ago at age 97 but I still can’t look out that window without seeing her.
— Hartford High’s Randy St. Peter was a great running back. He got the tough yards and never fumbled.
Then, one day, going over the goal line for what was likely the winning score for Vermont, he fumbled and the Vermonters lost possession in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl played at Dartmouth College.
That picture remains alive in my mind but it is not as vivid as the one the day after. I met Vermont head coach Brian Coombs at Art in the Park in Rutland on Sunday , and he was understandably still visibly shaken.
— One that will never go away is of Proctor High’s George Davis hitting a home run over the right field fence.
Granted, the right field fence is the shortest part of the baseball diamond in Proctor, but this one came on a check swing.
He went on to have a great baseball career at Eastern Connecticut.
— A fast-pitch softball team representing Vermont called Roger Ryan was in Spokane, Washington for the national tournament.
There were games across numerous field with teams from all over the nation competing.
Roger Ryan opened the tournament against a team from Austin, Minnesota. Bob Underhill Jr. was the first batter up and knocked the game’s first pitch over the fence.
The team from Vermont became the darlings of the Spokane fans in that moment, one I will never forget.
— It was 1994 and Plymouth State’s season was just about over. The Panthers trailed by two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter against the United States Merchant Marine Academy in an NCAA Division III first-round football playoff game.
Then, Fair Haven’s Joel Perry, Plymouth’s quarterback. rallied the Panthers with two late TD passes, the last a strike to senior wide receiver Jack Dalton to give Plymouth a 19-18 victory.
It was incredible, but that’s not the lasting image.
Joel’s father Dennis Perry was so overcome with excitement that he reached through the press box window, grabbed me and began shaking me. You don’t forget that.
— The late Rhett Morse was an incredible athlete for Windsor High School.
He appeared to be on course to win the decathlon one year when he spiked himself in the long jump pit. The wound was such that meet director Jerry Jasinski would not allow him to continue without going to the hospital first.
Morse returned and pole vaulted practically one handed but still won the state decathlon title that year.
Seeing Morse return to Bellows Falls’ Hadley Field from the hospital was a picture that will remain with anyone who was there.
— Steve Holmes, who later became a track and field coach at Brattleboro, and I were at the Springfield Civic Center watching the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Final Four.
It was enough years ago that I can’t tell you who won the tournament that year.
But I will never forget what happened in the third-place game. A player made a shot at the buzzer to win the game for Cal-San Luis Obispo. It came from a good 80 feet away.
— You don’t forget buzzer beaters like that. And you will never forget the one Gretchen Pembroke nailed for Montpelier to give the Solons the girls basketball championship at Barre Auditorium.
The shot had a high trajectory, heightening the suspense. When it finally came down and went in the hoop, the Solons mobbed Pembroke, only a freshman, to ignite a wild celebration.
— Not all buzzer-beating attempts find the mark. Don Dunchus launched a potential game-winner for the West Rutland boys basketball team that would have given the Golden Horde the title. It was no easy shot, from long range and included the pressure of beating the buzzer but it came close, clanking off the rim.
— I can see Brooke Raiche’s fifth foul before eyes as though it happened yesterday.
She was playing for West Rutland in a tense Division IV state championship game against Mount St. Joseph at the Barre Auditorium. The game was still close in the final minutes and Raiche and an MSJ player dove for the ball between midcourt and the foul circle.
They collided and Raiche was whistled for her fifth foul.
I never understood how the foul was called on one player as opposed to the other.
MSJ hoisted the trophy.
I don’t know whether Westside would have won had Raiche been on the floor that final minute but it would have been one heck of a finish.
— Harwood fans will never forget Tom Griffin and his big day in Windsor at the boys soccer playoff game.
Griffin made the winning penalty kick and then dashed to his car for the trip up I-91 to Thetford where the Vermont State Cross Country Championships awaited the Highlanders’ dual sport athlete.
— There have been plenty of exciting moments at the Vermont State Legion Baseball Tournament but one scene that brings a smile to my face each time I think of it is of Pete Partch and his wife sitting in the bleachers each year at Castleton and charting those games in the scorebook.
Partch lives in Tennessee where he attends minor league baseball games, but the former Vermont Shrine football player from Fair Haven would return to the Vermont Legion tourney each year and dutifully keep score of the games.
Keeping a scorebook is a vanishing art and it was so good to know someone in the stands was still doing it.
— When Wade Mitchell was coaching the Proctor High School baseball team, his ploy when he had a runner on third base provided a scene that has stayed with me.
He would have his batter step out of the box and when the pitcher halted his motion, Mitchell would sprint from the third base coaching box, screaming, “Balk. Balk. Balk.”
He always got a run out of it.
— I am not sure how it happened, but I can still see the ball going in the net and shaking my head in disbelief.
MSJ’s Beth Parento scored the most amazing goal I have ever seen in a soccer game. It happened at the Lions Twin State Soccer Cup Match at Plymouth State.
It came from about the midfield stripe, hit another player early in its journey and somehow found its way into the goal.
— Fair Haven coach Don Hubert meticulously prepared the Vermont team to beat New Hampshire as the Vermont head man for the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in the late 1980s.
Fellow scribe Chuck Clarino practically lived at the Vermont camp at Green Mountain College and he will tell you that no coach ever prepared a team more thoroughly.
Vermont was leading and looked poised for the win until New Hampshire mounted a drive that ended with the winning TD pass to Fall Mountain’s Scott Hunter in the back of the end zone.
Clarino and I were sitting near one another in the press box and there was an audible gasp from each of us when victory was snatched from the Vermonters.