Thursday December 13, 2012

AUSTIN DANFORTH

Assistant Sports Editor

BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union High School boys coach Dan Sleeman said he had a bad feeling about Wednesday's game from the moment the referee tossed the ball in the air for the tip-off.

Harwood senior Jacob Quirion, serving up a dagger at the final buzzer, cemented the feeling for the Patriots and the rest of the home crowd on opening night at Kates Gym.

Collecting the ball on the left wing with less than 10 seconds to play, Quirion backed down a defender inside the elbow and let fly a 12-foot jumper that banked in with one second to go to lift the Highlanders to a 64-63 win against the Patriots.

The last-second stunner leaves Mount Anthony (0-2) still waiting for its first win of the new season.

"We are getting outworked and that team totally deserved to be celebrating on our floor tonight," Sleeman said. "It's just very disappointing. We are just flat and somehow we've got to bounce back from this."

The Highlanders trailed 63-56 after MAU senior Aaryngston Bibens (20 points, 12 rebounds) drove the baseline for a layup with 2:19 left in the fourth quarter. But Dominic Moreno (14 points) scored in transition to make it a one-point game, 63-62, with 48 seconds to play.

Then a Patriot miss on the front end of a one-and-one chance at the free throw line set up the final possession. Harwood (1-1) coach Michael Woods called a timeout with 14 seconds left to organize the final play for Quirion, who finished with a game-high 21 points.

"He didn't get the ball where we wanted to to get a shot and he took it upon himself to drive to the middle," said Woods, who earned his first win leading the Highlanders varsity team.

Mount Anthony led by three at halftime, 34-31, and two after three quarters thanks to Sean Brundage's own 3-point buzzer-beater from the left corner. The long-range bomb, one of four for Brundage, who finished with 12 points, kept the Patriots ahead, 49-47, though they led by as many as nine during the quarter.

It was one of several momentum plays that the Patriots used to stay afloat. In the final stanza, Jason Redden tallied on a putback and Bibens converted Redden's ensuing miss at the line to crack a deadlock and give MAU a 58-54 edge.

However, Harwood, with a determined final two minutes, wasn't down for the count yet.

"I told the guys before they stepped on the floor that if we have an opportunity to put these guys away we can't let them hang around. The longer we let them hang around, the more momentum they get -- and that's exactly what happened today," Sleeman said. "I'm very disappointed."

A succession of Patriot misses and turnovers in the game's opening minutes saw the Highlanders seize a 12-2 lead -- only a mini-run in the final minute of the period kept the hosts close at 15-9.

"It's about playing hard for 32 minutes and we're not doing that," Sleeman said.