Sadly, vacation is over. Now it is time for playoffs, the postseason and state championships – March Madness at its finest. High school tourneys are in full swing, so support your favorite team or teams. New England Championship results are in, college hoops are in league tournament mode, spring training is rolling, spring sports around the corner and more HOF information, too!

Long-time Hornet coach, teacher, mentor and friend Bill O’Neil received yet another well-deserved honor. The Essex hockey, softball and soccer coach will be inducted to the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame on Monday, Jul. 2 in Chicago, Ill.. His teams won 1,293 games and 24 state championships. Bill is only the second Vermonter to earn this prestigious award. Congratulations!

At the 2018 New England Wrestling Championships in Providence, R.I. the Hornets placed 64 out of 177 teams. Each of the following EHS wrestlers won a match: Ben Stewart, Seth Carney, Jack Carney, and Alex Rizvanov. Though none may have won individual championships or placed on the podium, they enjoyed experience and had a highly successful winter.

The Essex girls’ basketball team took the eighth seed into the D-I tourney. Their draw was ninth-ranked Burlington at home. Ironically, the Seahorses defeated the Hornets twice this season in incredibly close games: 39-38 and 41-39. Coach Shawn Montague and staff believed his Hornets were a bit better than their 11-9 regular season record showed. The girls proved his point with a spot-on game plan resulting in a 24-point besting of their rivals coming out on top 54-30 in the playdown game. Up by six at the half, the girls outscored BHS by 11 in the third quarter to stretch their lead to 17 pts. and never looked back. Sarah Coulter lead the offensive explosion with 17 pts. Emmalee Smith scored 15, Olivia Duncan added 12, and Kylie Acker 10 in the win. Their reward was a date with top ranked St. Johnsbury, who had defeated the Hornets both games this winter by double digits margins: 69-32 and 57-40 (ouch)! Vegas odds said give the points and take the Hilltoppers, right? Those who did (not that there is any gambling on high school hoop games) lost their shirts as the Hornets gave their rivals a game and a scare in their own gym before falling 39-35. Essex held the highest-scoring team in the state (50+ppg) to their second lowest point total of the year and lowest in a win. Add to that the fact that Essex pushed the Hilltoppers to the limit and had a chance to shoot for the lead in the last minute. What an effort! In their final game Kylie Acker drained 17, Smith 8, and Duncan 7. The end the winter 12-10.

The boys’ basketball team went 1-1 last week ending the winter winning three of their final four games. A 71-64 loss to CVU then a 65-63 razor shave-win over Spaulding left them with a 6-14 record and the twelfth seed in the playoffs. The team played fifth ranked BFA on Tuesday. The jvs were 2-1 in their final games beating CVU 48-31 in OT, CHS 50-35, and falling to SHS. They were 12-8 this winter.

Our boys’ hockey team took its 16-3 record and second seed ranking into Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup vs ninth ranked CVU. The Hornets had handled the Red Hawks with relative ease winning 6-0 and 7-0 in their earlier games. Essex trailed 1-0 early before Jonah Janaro found Wayland Almeida for the tying goal in period 1. Sam Couture struck for the go-ahead goal on an extended Hornets’ power play with time running down in the second stanza. Continuing to send shot after shot on goal, Essex was stoned by CVU goalkeeper Reed Dousevicz. Anything goes in playoff hockey, and CVU stayed close despite the quarterfinal record 62 shots Essex peppered on goal, and with under three minutes to play the Hawks tied the score and the teams went to OT tied 2-2. The game remained 2-all after the first OT period. Then with a bit over two minutes to go in the second extra session, senior Chris Blanco sent the Hornets and their fans home happy and on to the semis and the Final Four with the playoff game-winning score! Sam Foster had 8 saves. Third ranked Stowe was in town Wednesday.

The top-ranked girls’ hockey team upped its state-best record to 18-3 winning its fourteenth straight game in a 3-0 shutout quarterfinal playoff win over MMU-CVU. The Hornets used a goal in each period from (in order) Olivia Miller-Johnson, Molly Bruyns and Kylee Hope to propel Essex into semifinals and the Final Four vs Rice. Goalkeeper Sophie Forcier stopped 13 shots while EHS put 36 on the Cougar/Red Hawk goal. The girls have allowed a mere nine goals during their streak with five shutouts!

The bowling team finished as state runner-ups Saturday in Barre. Starting as the third seed in the tourney, Essex defeated Fair Haven 4-2 in the best of seven games (Baker format). Next came Randolph, the second seed, and the Hornets blanked the Ghosts 4-0. Top rollers South Burlington provided the opposition in the finals. The Wolves stopped the Essex run 4-1. Team members Alex Prim, Reese Meunier, Tyler Elias, Ben Sprenger, Emily Harvey, Makenna Thorne and Kathryn Ferry should be proud of a great season. Congrats!

Congratulations to Hornet Alex Rizvanov on his selection to the 2018 Shrine Maple Sugar Game. A well-deserved honor to a talented football player and fine young man. I was hoping for a few more EHS players, and that may still happen.

It is the 25th anniversary of the Jimmy V “Never Give Up” speech versus cancer. A sad day for track fans as Sir Roger Bannister passed away at 88; he was the first athlete to break the four-minute mile barrier way back in 1956 and an inspiration to all distance runners.

I spent last week on assignment in the Caribbean aboard the Crown Princess covering former Junction residents Don and Carol Hathaway’s 50th anniversary with family and friends. Glad I got the job!

The Essex Chargers Board and Coach Drew Gordon of Essex High School are partnering to bring a few free football sessions to the Chargers players from Sunday, Mar. 11 through Sunday, Mar. 18. This will be open to all Chargers players from last season currently in grades 2-8 and anyone in those grades who has not played but may be interested in playing in the upcoming season. Spread the word!

Happy Birthday Amanda Sinkewicz, Samantha O’Sullivan Cooney, Orhan Smailhodzic, Rollie Noel, Karen Corbo Reid, Lawanda Coutrayer Legault, Amber Blesedell, Sterling Hardy, SC’s Larry Kimball, Brianna Wolfe, Deb Schonberg, Scott Smith, Dan Lazorchak, Linda Armstrong, Carrie McGibney Ramsey, Tom Giroux and Chris Demetrules.