BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union High School girls basketball coach Courtney Reif knew starting the home season with two-time Division-I defending champion Rice would be tough for the Patriots.
The Knights ran out to a 17-5 lead after one quarter en route to a 56-32 win on Saturday afternoon at Kates Gym.
But Reif said that even in defeat, her players are making good progress.
"It was much better than the first game against Lee [Mass.]," Reif said. "We had less turnovers than we did against Lee and the girls handled it a lot differently."
Hailee Barron led all scorers with 23 for the Knights, 13 of those in the first half as she rested for most of the fourth quarter. Barron hit four 3-pointers, one that gave Rice a 17-3 lead early. She also had three steals and two rebounds.
"She's a complete player and it's just not about points," said Rice coach Tim Rice. "She runs the point and keeps up the tempo, the type of player that makes everyone around her better."
Rice scored the first 10 points of the second quarter to go up 22, but MAU went on a 9-2 run with Morgan Hewitt scoring all seven of her points in the frame. The sophomore Hewitt was the Patriots' (0-2) leading scorer.
"She really gave us a spark in the second," Reif said. "She has a good shot and I told her to be aggressive in taking shots. She hit them when she had to.
In the third, MAU's Lacy Parmenter and Nikki Harrington each had baskets to open up the period, but Barron's third and fourth 3-pointer gave the Knights a 32-point lead at the end of the third quarter.
Rice's Cassidy Derda and Tomi Akinpetide each were in double figures -- the 6-footer Derda had 13 and Akinpetide chipped in with 11.
"We wanted to take away the drive into the lane, and we had a tough time with that," Reif said. "Our defensive rotation needs to be better."
Junior Makayla Farrara, MAU's top scorer early this season, was held to six points, all in the final quarter as Rice cleared their bench.
Rice improves to 2-0 on the season as they continue their quest for a third straight championship.
"We have the target on our back but it comes with the territory," Rice said. "We're going to get everyone's best."
Mount Anthony faces Wahconah (Mass.) on Tuesday at Kates Gym as they look to get in the win column.
"We played better than the score depicted," Reif said. "We have a lot to work on, but there's no hustle issues."