BARRE — It was time to milk the clock.
Poultney led by three points and had possession of the ball with just under a minute to play in Wednesday night’s Division IV state semifinal game at the Barre Auditorium. Taylor Dunlap was behind the 3-point line and in shooting mode with Poultney coach Bob Coloutti screaming, “No, no.”
But Dunlap let it go, it swished through the net and Coloutti changed his call to “Yes, yes.” Instead of an ill-advised shot it, became a dagger in the heart of Twin Valley and the Blue Devils went on to a 46-42 victory.
The No. 2 Blue Devils will take an 18-6 record into Saturday’s state championship game at noon against Danville.
“I have confidence in my coaches and my teammates and I have confidence in myself to take that shot,” Dunlap said.
The Blue Devils were knocked out in the semifinal last season and it looked as though they might not get beyond it again when they plodded through a lackluster first half and went to the break trailing 16-9.
Coloutti delivered the message in the locker room: The Wildcats were outworking and outhustling the Devils. It was time to flip that script or the season would end in the same place it did last season.
The results were immediate. Poultney quickly tied the game at 16-16 on hoops by Levi Haviland, Dunlap and Heith Mason. Caden Capman had a big hand in the surge with assists on two of those three hoops.
Haviland scored inside to put the Devils in front for good, 22-21.
Dunlap, who had eight 3s in a regular-season game against West Rutland, had three in Wednesday’s game. The first cushioned the lead to 27-21.
The Wildcats lost their composure a little and did not help their cause with two technical fouls.
The Blue Devils had to play most of the fourth quarter without Haviland, one of their outstanding post players.
But the other was superb. Mason led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Dunlap’s second trey was also a key one, extending the lead to 37-29 with six minutes to go.
Jack McHale led the Wildcats with 20 points and six rebounds. Izaak Park added 12 points.
Dunlap had 13 points with his three 3s and Haviland was a strong complement down low to Mason when he was able to be on the floor. Haviland had eight points and four rebounds.
“I am proud of my guys. They were outstanding,” Coloutti said.
But the start was slow. The Wildcats got out to an 11-5 lead, compelling the Poultney coach to call a timeout with 3:17 to go in the opening quarter. He was as animated as he gets in the huddle.
But there was no response. Park buried a 3 to balloon TV’s lead to 16-7.
But the response would come in the second half, and it was an emphatic one.
Capman had just a single point but he was a ball of fire on defense, getting his hands on balls, diving for loose ones and disrupting the Wildcats offense at every turn.
Eli Rosario was also a force on the boards for the Devils with seven rebounds.
Danville was imposing in turning back Poultney’s rival Proctor in its semifinal game.
Now, the Devils will try their hand at knocking off the Indians. Coloutti knows that another slow start is not recommended.
The Devils are out for their first title since 2001, when they won the title in Division III.