The Phantom Menace: Eagles have shot to dethrone rival Proctor
ARLINGTON -- For female athletes at Arlington Memorial High School, Proctor has been a nemesis over the past two years.
In soccer, the Phantoms swept the past six meetings, including a semifinal victory last fall en route to a championship. So far in basketball, the teams have faced off twice, two days apart last month, with Proctor coming out on top each time by a combined 11 points.
On Saturday at the Barre Auditorium, the sixth-seeded Eagles (14-8) will get another chance to knock off their top-seeded rival -- this time, in the biggest game of the year, the Division IV final.
Arlington (14-8) last won the title in 2005 and would be the lowest seed to win a D-IV crown since 1994.
"We want to do the same thing as the first two [Proctor] games, and catch a couple breaks," said Arlington coach Larry Andrews. "The first one was a two-point game, it could have gone either way. We're not changing anything."
Senior Rayleen Sherman leads the Eagles and did so in dramatic fashion in the 59-49 semifinal win over West Rutland on Tuesday, scoring 23 points including 10 in a decisive fourth quarter.
Sophomore Molly Elwell is the Eagles' top scorer for the season, averaging just over 12 points a contest, but balance on offense has been a key throughout the tournament and three players were in double figures against the Horde.
Proctor (20-2), the defending state title-holder, aims to become the first back-to-back D-IV champion since 2000-01. The Phantoms are led by senior Carissa Elrick, who combined for 39 points in the two games.
"We're going to try to slow down the big guns, like Elrick, minimize her touches," Andrews said. "[Rayleen's] up to the task."
The Eagles will also have to deal with senior Megan Carter, a double-double threat every time out, and freshman Abby McKearin, one of the top sixth men in D-IV.
"I know [Elrick's] a good player and I have to do my best to stop her, but I know my team will help me out and pick me up when I need it," Sherman said.
With both regular-season meetings down to the wire affairs, free throws could make the difference. Arlington was 20-for-28 from the line in the semifinal. During practice on Friday, the Eagles worked on a shooting drill that combined conditioning and free throws.
"In the semifinal, free throws were a big part of the game. They are important," Sherman said. "When it comes down to the fourth quarter, you have to make them."
With the recent history between the two schools firmly in the Phantoms' direction, the Eagles -- whose entire roster, save for one, played soccer -- will have some extra motivation fresh in their minds.
"We need to work hard to get by them, just keep plugging away," Sherman said. "We know they're a really good team but hopefully we can put them away. We have to be 100 percent the whole game."
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