Assistant Sports Editor
ARLINGTON -- The first three quarters are clearly no problem for the Arlington Memorial High School girls basketball team, which was once again sharp and in command entering the final eight minutes against West Rutland.
It's the final stanza that remains a sticking point.
After a Molly Elwell 3-pointer put the Eagles ahead by 11 early in the fourth quarter, the Golden Horde pitched a shut out for the final 7 minutes 30 seconds, surging to a 52-46 victory on Thursday night at the Eagles' Nest.
It was the third time in four games this season Arlington (0-4) led late before faltering down the stretch, but a significant improvement from the teams' first meeting this year, a 57-32 West Rutland win.
"We got tired, [our] short bench gets us," said Arlington coach Larry Andrews. "The other two games we had some miscellaneous things get us, whether it was foul shooting or missed layups, but that game we hit our foul shots, made most of our layups -- it was just fatigue that got us."
A pair of treys by Elwell and Rayleen Sherman in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter vaulted the Eagles into a lead they held until midway through the fourth.
And seeing the game slip away from them as Arlington's lead ballooned to 41-28, the Golden Horde (4-0) changed their scheme and reaped the benefits in a physical fourth quarter.
West Rutland finished the game on a 24-5 run as Arlington struggled to get off -- and connect on -- shots when drawing contact in the lane.
"We switched back to a man-to-man [defense]," said West Rutland coach Carl Serrani said. "We started out in a 3-2 zone in the fourth quarter and we were just staying even with them. I decided, what the heck, switch over to man-to-man and we'll live or die with it."
The loss soured an otherwise break-out performance from Elwell, a sophomore, who finished with a game-high 18 points, including three second-half trifectas.
"She's starting to get confidence, absolutely," Andrews said. "She's a dynamite foul shooter, she's a good outside shooter, she handles the ball."
Brooke Raiche's 3-pointer with a minute left in regulation pushed the West Rutland lead to five, 51-46, but it was the presence of junior twins Morgan and Taylor Raiche that decided the contest against the much smaller Eagles.
The pair combined for 25 rebounds -- Arlington had 27 as a team -- and six blocks. Morgan Raiche netted 10 of her 12 points after the break.
"Nothing comes easy for us -- look at the size of us," Andrews said. "I can't say we kept them off the boards, but [we] did an OK job. Both of [the Raiche twins] are pretty aggressive and when there's a loose ball they go find it.
Seventeen days removed from their last game, the Golden Horde were unable to match the Eagles' speed and shooting through three periods.
Arlington led 31-22 at halftime and 43-35 after three periods.
Sherman finished with 10 points, while sophomore Brooke Hawley added 12. Julia Lacoste chipped in with six points and a team-high seven rebounds.