BFA-St. Albans coach Glenn Johnson said he's never seen such cold shooting by his Comets. But the No. 9 seed Burr and Burton Academy Bulldogs were just as cold Tuesday, and No. 8 BFA moves on to play undefeated Champlain Valley Union after a 45-36 win.
In a game plagued by turnovers and missed layups on both ends, the Comets opened up a seven-point first half lead only to see the Bulldogs hang around long enough to tie it with a layup before the break by senior Devin Brown, drawing even at 18.
BFA again pulled away in the third quarter, opening up a 25-18 lead with just 2:20 left in the frame before Burr & Burton went on another run, closing the gap and tying it in the opening minute of the fourth on a jumper by Maggie Oliver, who scored six off the bench.
But that's as close as the Bulldogs would make it. Lauren Larose responded to Oliver's shot immediately at the other end with a deep three, Eva Clark stole the ball and went up for another quick two, and the Comets kept the rest of the game just out of reach thanks to BBA foul trouble.
"We're obviously very lucky to come away with a win tonight," Johnson said. "It's probably our poorest shooting performance, probably since I've been here. To miss as many shots as we had, obviously we did a good defensive effort to keep them from scoring also."
Larose had nine points for the Comets, and after being held to just a pair of free throws in the first half, Clark finished with 10. Forward Leilani King battled early foul trouble, finishing with eight points.
"We didn't take care of the ball very well," said Burr and Burton coach Terry Merrow. "We had our opportunities. At this time of year, you can't give teams second, third, fourth chances. You just can't do it."
Despite a long drive and a weaker regular season resume than the one played by the Metro Division Comets, the Bulldogs were finding a way to hang around, in part thanks to 10 points from freshman forward Hannah Nicholson and eight from sophomore Claudia Mosher. The Comets were up 17-10 with 2:20 left in the second quarter before Mosher hit the first shot of that period. But Nicholson followed up with four points within a minute to make it 17-16, and a full court inbounds pass off a timeout sprung Brown free to tie it.
With three minutes left in the game, Rory Halligan drew BBA within one at 35-34, but after the Comets shot poorly all night from the free throw line, both Jillian Berno and Kate Dillon went two-for-two from the stripe in the final minute.
"Honestly, I was concerned throughout the game, as we couldn't pull away from them, a team coming this far, a three-hour ride, the longer they stay in the game, the more confidence they get and they regain some energy," Johnson said. "We were definitely worried. Fortunately Lauren kind of put that to rest when she hit that three and got us away from them."
"I said, 'maybe today's the day,'" Merrow said. "My kids always play hard. You know what you're going to get when you face Glenn. There's going to be in your face defense. It was a clash of turnovers, really."
With the playdown round win, BFA now prepares to face 20-0 CVU Friday, a team that pulled away from the Comets in the second half to win easily twice in the regular season.
"We played CVU well last time in the first half. They got away from us in the second. We just do what we do in practice to get ready for them," Johnson said. "We'll have to make some shots down there."