Tuesday January 15, 2013

AUSTIN DANFORTH

Assistant Sports Editor

HOOSICK, N.Y. -- With 12 games to go, the stakes were clear enough for the Mount Anthony Union High School boys basketball team. The Patriots had to produce six wins to meet the school's playoff eligibility standard.

Now, after resuming their annual interstate rivalry with Hoosick Falls, the Patriots will have to do one better than .500 to see the postseason.

The Panthers held Mount Anthony to just two points in the first quarter and delivered the points they needed in the dying minutes to escape with 46-40 win on Monday night.

"Both teams needed a win bad," Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac said. "I know our guys needed a win bad and both teams played hard. We happened to just make a few more plays."

The Panthers (5-5) got back to .500 themselves with the victory and never trailed after a layup from Randy Tutunjian (14 points) gave them the lead two minutes into the contest.

Aaryngston Bibens paced the Patriots (0-9) with 14 points -- all in the second half -- and 12 rebounds. But Hoosick Falls' sagging man-to-man defense provided the help and clogged the passing lanes to keep the senior or the rest of the Patriots from doing much more damage.

"I thought with some missed early shots and not having that [ball] movement from side to side to really test that defense, it was a grind all night for us offensively," MAU coach Dan Sleeman said.

"We were trying to make Bibens work for his shots -- obviously he's the best player on the court -- and give a lot of help," Lilac said. "That seemed to work for us, to try to force the other guys to score."

Mount Anthony struck first in every period but the Panthers blanked their guests for the final six and a half minutes of the opening quarter after Hao Guo's fastbreak layup gave the Patriots their only taste of the lead. Hoosick Falls led 11-2 at the end of the frame.

"It's tough to win a game with two points in a quarter, regardless of how tough your defense is," Sleeman said.

Austin Pitt's putback with 50 seconds left in the third quarter gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the night, 34-21.

The Patriots responded with a 15-6 run over the next seven minutes to make it a four-point game, 40-36, after Bibens' basket from the left block with 1:48 remaining.

It was still a four-point game with a minute to go after James Levin's runner, but with the Patriots forced to foul to extend the game, Evan Phillips went 4-of-6 at the free throw line to sew up the win.

Phillips finished with nine points for Hoosick Falls, and Pitt and Taylor Baker chipped in with eight. Levin added nine for MAU, which trailed 22-11 at halftime.

"With having to win six games, we're going to have to look at this from a sense-of-urgency standpoint and say it's do-or-die," Sleeman said. "As a coach, you have to make decisions accordingly."