4 - West Rutland @ Proctor

West Rutland’s Kiana Grabowski, left, drives down the court beside Proctor’s Maggie McKearin during a varsity game in February at Buggiani Gymnasium in Proctor.

There’s that blast of cold air that lets you know — the high school basketball season is closing in. The first formal practices are Dec. 2 and the date teams can play their openers is Dec. 13.

When it comes to the girls game in Rutland County it is all about the triangle.

No, not the Triangle Defense that coach Phil Jackson ran so successfully for so many years in the NBA.

We are talking about that snug little network of girls basketball programs in our corner of the universe that have formed such a fierce rivalry — Mount St. Joseph, Proctor and West Rutland.

You can drive from one school to the other in about the time it takes Sweet Georgia Brown to play on your car radio.

Last season all three made it to the Division IV Final Four at Barre Auditorium and West Rutland won the biggest prize by beating Blue Mountain in the state championship game.

The Golden Horde is a threat to repeat with marquee players like Elizabeth Bailey, Kiana Grabowski, Kiera Pipeling and Jenee McGee returning.

The Horde has uncommon height for a Division IV team with Bailey and Isabell Lanfear giving them a pair of 6-footers.

Toss in Madison Guay, who made the biggest shot in the state final, and others with varsity experience, and you have the makings of a very special team that could be difficult to dethrone.

But Proctor is coming off a state championship soccer season and is hungry to replicate that success on the basketball floor. The Phantoms also have an abundance of talent returning led by the likes of Maddie Flanders, Maggie McKearin, Lyndsey Elms, Allie Almond and Rachel Stuhlmueller.

That is a lineup that figures to challenge the Horde and the other contenders.

Bill Bruso returns after a hiatus as head coach at MSJ and he, too, has a team that should make another run at the big stage that is Barre Auditorium.

The best part of this is that The Triangle heats up early. West Rutland visits Proctor on Dec. 18.

Rutland County produced two state champions in girls basketball last year. Kyle Wilson’s Fair Haven Slaters snared the brass ring as the No. 3 seed, beating Lake Region in the Division II title game.

Torrid shooting Ryleigh Coloutti and company figure to make a run at the Division II crown again.

Fair Haven fans can get their first look at the Slaters on Dec. 14 when they tip off the season at home against Arlington at 2:30 p.m.

Rutland is coming off one of its best seasons in some time. The Raiders put together a 13-7 record in the regular season and followed it up with a first-round playoff victory over Lyndon before being ousted by Rice.

If the Raiders are to replicate that success they must do it without Elise Magro, the only 1,000-point scorer in program history.

Magro begins her next basketball chapter on Saturday when she and her Castleton University teammates open the campaign at home against Norwich University.

Coach Nate Bellomo’s Rutland team starts writing its new chapter on Dec. 14 at home against CVU, the Division I runner-up, in the North-South Classic in Rutland.

There is a new coach at Mill River where Brad Rideout takes the reins from Ken Webb. Rideout was the head women’s basketball coach at Green Mountain College.

Otter Valley has never been to a state championship game and the last semifinal appearance for the Otters was back in 2003.

But they have some athletes in Otterville along with some recent success with runs all the way to the last title games in softball and field hockey.

The House of Noise could be lively this winter. It all begins on Dec. 13 when Proctor enters the “House.”

Capman Court has not been lively in recent seasons. The Poultney Blue Devils weathered a 3-18 season that included a first-round playoff loss to MSJ. They would love to begin turning things around this season.

Whether you are trying to take that step toward relevancy like Poultney or harbor realistic notions of getting to the revered building on the hill in Barre like West Rutland, Proctor, MSJ and Fair Haven, this is the time of year where everybody is good enough to have dreams.

tom.haley

@rutlandherald.com

Follow Tom on Twitter: @RHSportsGuy

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