Thursday December 20, 2012

AUSTIN DANFORTH

Assistant Sports Editor

BENNINGTON -- Neck and neck with Wahconah for more than three quarters, Mount Anthony Union High School had the Warriors within its sights, one shot away, for more than two minutes late in Wednesday night's game.

But Wahconah's ninth 3-pointer of the night, with just 3 minutes 39 seconds left, providing a six-point cushion, proved to be one too many for the Patriots to overcome.

Supported by, at times, an expert touch around the arc and a consistently stingy defense, the Warriors nailed all eight free throws they looked at down the stretch to hold off Mount Anthony for a 55-46 victory in boys basketball at Kates Gym.

Sophomore Nick Boino tallied 11 of the Warriors' last 16 points -- fellow sophomore Collin Parrott had the other five -- to extend the Patriots' hard-luck start to the season.

"They knocked down some tough shots," MAU coach Dan Sleeman said. "[Boino] really stepped up in the second half."

Aaryngston Bibens was a creative force for the Patriots (0-5) with 13 points and eight assists to go along with eight rebounds, but the tentacles of the Wahconah (3-0) zone defense-- focused on stopping him -- kept the dynamic senior from doing even more damage.

"I knew it was going to be a grind because [Wahconah coach] Ed Ladley has run that 2-3 zone for years and it's known in Western Mass. as a really tough zone," Sleeman said. "They can pack it in, they can extend it, and they close out hard. We knew we were going to have to play in the half-court tonight."

With nine points and four assists in the first half, Bibens had a role in 18 of the hosts 22 points as they trailed by a point.

"[Bibens] is a great athlete and when he wants to turn it on, turn it off, you've got to stop that," Ladley said. "Are we going to stop him every time? No. But we wanted to try to keep him on the perimeter.

"We wanted to keep him from continuing his dribble ... play him tight."

At the break, Parrott (17 points) and sophomore Marco Anastasio (10 points) combined for 20 of the Warriors 23 points.

A Parrott 3-pointer, his fifth of the night, set the visitors on their way after halftime. The Warriors overcame a 34-27 deficit on the boards with the nine 3-pointers and a flawless 10-of-10 night at the free throw line.

And with the Patriots threatening, down just three points, 39-36, midway through the final stanza, Boino (16 points) drained a fall-away trey from the left corner to double the lead, ensuring Mount Anthony got no closer.

"It was an exceptional shooting night, the shots that went in," Ladley said. "We ran some shots off a pattern that could free a guy up. Whether we hit them or not, that's just the luck of the game," Ladley said.

Alec Little and James Levin each sank three 3-pointers for MAU to finish with 11 points apiece. Evan Sparta added nine points and eight rebounds for the Patriots, who are off until hosting Essex on Dec. 28.

"We've improved on our rebounding, we've improved on our turnovers -- obviously a couple breaks at the end and making a few shots down the stretch would've helped, but I have to give tremendous credit to my players," Sleeman said. "They have continued to work hard until the end."