BARRE — Danville’s Ian Steele had one of those state championship games that fans reminisce about when they return to Barre Auditorium in future years. He scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and authored some highlight-reel passes in helping the Indians to a 57-44 victory over Poultney, giving the Indians the Division IV state crown.
It also gave Tito Chamul more validation for choosing Danville as his school when Concord High closed its doors four years ago.
“I loved Concord,” Chamul said. “I looked at some other schools but I came to Danville because it’s a small school just like Concord.”
He also knew a lot of the Danville students from playing summer baseball.
Steele and his other teammates gave the senior something to remember Danville by, but Chamul contributed plenty on his own in this title game, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Steele beat the third-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer to give the Indians the lead for good, 39-36.
Then Chamul helped give them some much needed breathing room. The big guy worked inside for two quick buckets that bumped the lead to 43-38. Later, Chamul made a gorgeous pass ro Garrett Sinclair who scored to push the margin to a more comfortablel 47-38.
“I’m glad I got to do that in the fourth quarter because I didn’t play that great the first three quarters,” Chamul said.
Steele said his long-distance shot that beat the buzzer heading into the fourth stanza “got us fired up.”
It was a tension packed game with lead changes galore between the top seed and No. 2 Poultney with an entertaining opening quarter setting the pace.
Heith Mason scored Poultney’s first five points enabling the Blue Devils to take a 5-2 lead.
Steele tied it up with a 3-pointer and quickly connected on another trey to push the Indians ahead 8-6.
Levi Haviland made a turn-around shot in the lane to tie it, but Steele recaptured the lead for Danville by knocking one down from the outside.
That’s the way it went, back and forth. The game was tied after the first quarter, 15-15, and still knotted at 26-26 at the half.
Poultney coach Bob Coloutti knew by that time, though, that his team had a challenge. The Blue Devils had three players each with three personal fouls.
It did catch up with them in the second half.
“We just ran out of gas,” Coloutti said. “We were still scoring (in the second half) but the kids could not be as aggressive on defense because of our fouls.
“But I could not be prouder. It could have gone either way.”
The Devils might have been worn down, but Danville coach Jason Brigham felt his squad stayed fresh by getting a lift from the reserves. Jacob Baeseman, Logan Young, Aaron Goodwin and Dillon Brigham all came off the bench to supply quality minutes for the Indians.
“it did not hurt us at all when we had to go to the bench because of foul trouble,” Brigham said.
Steele had 17 of his points by halftime and 13 of them came in the first quarter.
When The Blue Devils began tightening up on him, Steele demonstrated his basketball IQ.
“Ian is such a good passer,” Brigham said. “When they began collapsing on him, he always hit the open man.”
Poultney’s prolific 3-point shooter Taylor Dunlap, who had eight 3s in a single game during the regular season, and three in the semifinal win over Twin Valley, had been pretty quiet. The Indians were conscious of him from the beginning.
But Dunlap did a nail a 3-pointer with 2:30 left in the third quarter to give the Devils a 36-34 lead.
That’s when Steele stepped up. He penetrated to earn the tying hoop and then put the Indians ahead for good by beating the buzzer from beyond the arc.
“That shot at the end of the third quarter was huge,” Brigham said.
Following Steele in scoring for the Indians was Tim White with 10 points. Chamul added six points and six rebounds and Cole Beliveau tossed in six points..
Mason had another double-double for the Blue Devils. He followed up his 16 points and 11 rebounds in the semifinal game with 19 points and 10 boards in this one.
The other half of the Devils’ potent post tandem Levi Haviland added 15 points and six rebounds.
Caden Capman had six rebounds to go along with four points before fouling out with 2:35 remaining.
It ended a remarkable run for the 17-7 Blue Devils who overcame plenty of adversity to get to the final. They lost two starters, one before the season when Levi Allen suffered a football injury and another in early February when Jon Baker was sidelined for the remainder of the campaign with an injury.
It was the exclamation point on a rebuilding job for the Indians after the team was pretty much gutted after winning the title in 2014. It has been a steady climb that saw them get to the championship game last year where they fell to Sharon Academy.
The Indians cap the crown with an 18-6 record.
Danville graduates four starters but Steele is back after eclipsing the 1,000-point milestone as a junior. They also bring back all four of the players Brigham praised for their contributions off the bench.
The Devils graduate Baker and starters Haviland, Dunlap and Eli Rosario but have something to build around with Mason on the inside and Capman on the perimeter. Sixth Jesse Combs also returns.
Concord gave Danville a pretty nice present in Tito Chamul. And before he left, Chamul did his part in giving the Danville fans a pretty special present — the program’s seventh state title.