Groveton and St. Albans used big second halves last night to race to first-round basketball victories in the Mount Vernon Invitational Tournament.

Groveton shot 61 percent from the field in burning Springbrook, 101-89. St. Albans rallied from a six-point halftime deficit to slip past West Springfield, 66-63.

Groveton (6-1) will face St. Albans (4-1) in a semifinal game (tonight at 9. Hayfield (6-1) battles host Mount Vernon (8-0) in the other semifinal game at 7.

In consolation games, Coolidge faces Good Counsel at 3 and West Springfield goes against Springbrook at 5.

Groveton opened up in a hurry against a slow-moving Blue Devil zone, cashing five of its first six shots to go ahead, 11-2. The Tigers continued to shoot well the rest of the way and never allowed Springbrook to get closer than five points.

Junior forward Gary Ford was a 6-foot-3 thorn in Springbrook's side all night. This smooth operator threw in 29 points from everywhere, collected 10 rebounds and dealt nine assists. He had 15 points in the first half as his team took a 50-38 lead into intermission.

Ford hit a jump shot early in the third quarter to give his team a 54-36 advantage, but seconds later reinjured his back and had to leave the game.

"I pulled some back muscles during practice last week and they got sore when I went up for a dunk," he said.

When Ford left the game, Springbrook made its move. Russell Tearney (16 points) and Chuck Driesell sparked a 15-3 blitz that pulled the Blue Devils within 61-53 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

Ford's back healed in a hurry, back he came, and suddenly the Tigers took off again. Ford made one of his patented, soft one-handers and assisted on two baskets by Scott Lindley, and Groveton regained control, 71-57, with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.

Groveton's running attack and 75 percent field shooting in the final quarter left Springbrook gasping. Ford's dunk with three minutes left put Groveton ahead by 21 points and gave the partisan crowdone final cheer.

St. Albans trailed 36-30, at intermission but regrouped in the third quarter. Carl Cosimano began to work his way free for open shots and made two straight jumpers, his second one putting the Bulldogs ahead, 47-46, with 1:42 left in the period.

Chris Spille's two free throws put the Spartans back on top, 48-47, but the Bulldogs took advantage of two Spartan missed shots and a turnover to grab a 54-50 lead going into the final eight minutes.

West Springfield hit three of its four shots from the floor and three of four free throws in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to keep ahead, 59-56.

The Bulldogs settled down again under Cosimano's direction. Consecutive baskets by Tom Walker, Cosimano and Drew Hyde sent St. Albans ahead to stay, 62-59, with three minutes remaining.

The Spartans pulled within a point, 62-61, as Kip Taylor sank two free throws.

The Bulldogs went to their spread offense and West Springfield (1-4) had no choice but to foul.