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2024 Vermont high school girls basketball playoff primer and round-by-round predictions

Champlain Valley in Division I, North Country in Division II, Windsor in Division III and West Rutland in Division IV are legitimate contenders — favorites, perhaps — to retain their state championships. And Windsor and West Rutland are chasing three-peats.

But the path to more hardware and banners is not a straight line for these defending champions. Challengers, and in some cases, co-favorites, are at every turn.

Who will cut down the nets at the Barre Auditorium and Patrick Gym in March? To continue a Varsity Insider tradition, here's my annual girls basketball primer and tournament predictions for each of the four divisions.

Enjoy!

More: Vermont high school playoffs: 2024 VPA winter tournament pairings

Division I — Primer and predictions

► What to know: Top-seeded Champlain Valley (19-1) has won six D-I crowns and reached three other title games (not counting the shared COVID championship in 2020) under 13-year head coach Ute Otley. This year's Redhawks received a wake-up defensively in the loss to St. Johnsbury earlier this month and have since gone on a convincing eight-game winning streak. Seniors Elise Berger and Merrill Jacobs carry a big load and Zoey McNabb, a sophomore, has emerged as a true scoring threat for CVU's typically balanced attack. ... No. 2 St. Johnsbury (17-3) saw its 11-game winning streak halted thanks to Burlington's fourth-quarter surge at Patrick Gym on Feb. 19. If both teams win their quarterfinal matchup, they'll meet again on the big floor at the Final Four. ... No. 3 Burlington (15-5) streaks into the playoffs with a five-game winning streak. Bree McDonald, Nylah Mitchell and Co. are gelling at the right time of year. ... No. 4 Rutland (15-5) hasn't loss in two months, a span of 13 games. Their defeats are to Fair Haven, CVU, Burlington, Mount Mansfield and Essex. Rutland went on a similar winning streak last winter to come within an overtime period of reaching the title game.

Playdowns

No. 8 Mount Mansfield over No. 9 Brattleboro

No. 5 Colchester over No. 12 Rice

No. 7 BFA-St. Albans over No. 10 Burr and Burton

No. 6 Essex over No. 11 South Burlington

Quarterfinals

No. 1 Champlain Valley over MMU

No. 4 Rutland over Colchester

No. 2 St. Johnsbury over BFA

No. 3 Burlington over Essex

Semifinals

CVU over Rutland

Burlington over St. Johnsbury

Championship

CVU 45, Burlington 41: The Redhawks hang on despite the Seahorses late rally, sealing the second of back-to-back crowns.

More: 2024 Vermont high school boys basketball playoff primer and round-by-round predictions

Division II — Primer and predictions

► What to know: Averaging around 18 points a game, reigning Gatorade player of the year Sabine Brueck has No. 1 North Country (18-2) in the pole position as it chases a repeat championship. The Falcons fell early to Mount Mansfield before ripping off a 15-game winning streak. A setback to Harwood, on the night Brueck reached 1,000 career points, might just be a blip for the Falcons, who routed Lyndon 59-26 in the regular-season finale to secure the No. 1 seed. ... No. 2 Fair Haven (16-4) lost twice and split with Brattleboro and Windsor. In 11 of their games, the Slaters kept their opponent to under 35 points. ... Third-seeded Lamoille (16-4) had its most regular-season wins in seven years. The Lancers lost to North Country twice, Essex once and split with Harwood. Defense and unselfish play have been the Lancers' calling cards this season. ...No. 4 Harwood (16-4) owns a six-game winning streak since dropping back-to-back games to Lyndon. A potential quarterfinal matchup with No. 5 Lyndon (15-5) should be one of the round's best ones out of any division. The Vikings are paced by 3-point sniper Brooke'lyn Robinson, who's averaging around 23 points a game.

Playdowns

No. 1 North Country over No. 16 Otter Valley

No. 9 Springfield over No. 8 Enosburg

No. 4 Harwood over No. 13 Milton

No. 5 Lyndon over No. 12 Montpelier

No. 7 Hartford over No. 10 Missisquoi

No. 3 Lamoille over No. 14 U-32

No. 2 Fair Haven over No. 15 Middlebury

No. 6 Mount Abraham over No. 11 Spaulding

Quarterfinals

North Country over Springfield

Lamoille over Mount Abraham

Fair Haven over Hartford

Harwood over Lyndon

Semifinals

North Country over Harwood

Lamoille over Fair Haven

Championship

North Country 50, Lamoille 49: Late free throws get the job for the Falcons in their march to repeat titles.

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Division III — Primer and predictions

► What to know: With the duo of senior Caitlyn Davison and freshman Kelsie each averaging more than 16 points a game, No. 1 Hazen (17-1) stormed to the program's first top spot since 2019. The Wildcats, who are seeking to end a 33-year championship drought, haven't lost since Dec. 19 (53-50 to Lyndon) and snapped West Rutland's 40-game winning streak. All of Hazen's 17 wins are by double digits except a nine-point triumph over Williamstown. ... Two-time reigning champion and No. 2 Windsor (16-4) split with D-II contender Fair Haven and D-IV contender West Rutland. A 2-3 stretch was washed away with a four-game winning roll down the stretch. ... No. 3 Richford (16-4), which enters the tournament on a five-game winning streak, lost twice to Hazen by double digits.

Playdowns

No. 4 Thetford over No. 13 Woodstock

No. 8 Oxbow over No. 9 Randolph

No. 5 White River Valley over No. 12 Mill River

No. 7 Vergennes over No. 10 Winooski

No. 3 Richford over No. 14 BFA-Fairfax

No. 6 Bellows Falls over No. 11 Green Mountain

Quarterfinals

No. 1 Hazen over Oxbow

No. 2 Windsor over Vergennes

Richford over Bellows Falls

White River Valley over Thetford

Semifinals

Hazen over WRV

Windsor over Richford

Championship

Windsor 52, Hazen 50 (OT): The Yellow Jackets rally in fourth and survive the extra period to complete three-peat.

Division IV — Primer and predictions

► What to know: Top-seeded West Rutland (17-3) lost out on the SVL 'B' Division title after falling to Windsor in the regular-season finale. But the Golden Horde had won 13 of 14 games and did not lose to a D-IV foe this winter. One of the state's best players, junior Peyton Guay headlines West Rutland's attack. Guay, who returned ahead of schedule from an ACL tear suffered last spring, broke the school's all-time scoring record earlier this month. ... No. 2 Long Trail (19-1) split with No. 3 Arlington (18-2), with Long Trail rolling in the second meeting 45-25 to run its winning streak its eight games in a row. ... No. 4 Williamstown (15-4) went 7-2 down the stretch.

Playdowns

No. 4 Williamstown over No. 13 Northfield

No. 5 Twinfield/Cabot over No. 12 Danville

No. 9 Poultney over No. 8 Mount St. Joseph

No. 2 West Rutland over No. 15 Sharon

No. 7 Leland & Gray over No. 10 Proctor

No. 3 Arlington over No. 14 Twin Valley

No. 6 Blue Mountain over No. 11 Rivendell

Quarterfinals

Williamstown over Twinfield/Cabot

No. 1 Long Trail over Poultney

Arlington over Blue Mountain

West Rutland over Leland & Gray

Semifinals

Williamstown over Long Trail

West Rutland over Arlington

Championship

West Rutland 60, Williamstown 45: Westside rolls to championship three-peat.

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Contact Alex Abrami at aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: Vermont high school girls basketball playoff primer and predictions