BENNINGTON -- After Mount Anthony Union High School's game against Brattleboro at Kates Gym on Tuesday night, MAU boys basketball coach Dan Sleeman was in the locker room for nearly 15 minutes talking to his team.
"Where we are right now, I'm concerned about the kids holding it together, but I have so much respect for this group," Sleeman said. "We always bounce back."
The Patriots remained winless on the season, dropping to 0-8 after a 51-46 loss to the Colonels.
"Basketball-wise, the common theme is getting out-rebounded," Sleeman said. "We were minus-13 tonight on the boards.
"Outside of basketball, one of the things you learn from varsity athletics is how to deal with disappointment and they're getting a ton of practice at it."
Up by three at the end of the third quarter, Brattleboro only hit a trio of field goals the rest of the game. But the Colonels went 15-of-18 from the line in the fourth as part of a 16-for-21 effort.
"In the last couple minutes, we were fouling to extend the game, but they did a nice job of hitting their free throws," Sleeman said.
The Patriots led at the half for only the second time this season, but a 10-0 run from the Colonels put them in front.
Chris McAuliffe hit two quick shots and Tyler Higley immediately added a steal and a layup to give Brattleboro the advantage. Back-to-back baskets by Higley and Connor Elliott-Knaggs extended the lead to 30-25.
Elliott-Knaggs led Brattleboro with 18 points on the night.
"That was a tough stretch in the third," Sleeman said. "By having Aary [Bibens] in the post made us struggle at the point guard position a little bit."
The senior captain Bibens was the majority of the Mount Anthony offense, scoring 26 of the team's 46 points, including 11 in the fourth trying to keep his team in it.
Despite their 0-8 record, the Patriots have been in every game this year except two. The other six have all been losses by nine points or less.
"We haven't out-rebounded our opponents in any of them," Sleeman said. "And that magnifies the other issues."
There is optimism, however. Sleeman said he sees the determination to get the Patriots into the win column.
"As a coach, it's easier to complain or point fingers," Sleeman said. "I'm beyond the ‘kick-the-garbage-can moments at this point. We need to stick together. They could have bagged this [season] on me before Christmas at 0-4, but they haven't.
"The fact is we need someone to step up consistently. That's been the biggest question all year."