Friday January 25, 2013

ADAM SAMROV

Sports Editor

BENNINGTON -- Down by a dozen at the start of the fourth quarter, the Mount Anthony Union High School boys basketball team had one comeback left in them.

The Patriots went on a 7-1 run and eventually pulled within three, but two press-breaking layups by Burr and Burton Academy senior Weston Muench gave the Bulldogs a 52-45 victory at Kates Gym on Thursday night.

"We had to put the press on because of their deliberate style," said MAU coach Dan Sleeman. "They did a good job of breaking it. We were kind of in scramble mode at the end and you have to gamble a little bit for a turnover. With two people on the ball, someone will be open."

It was the Patriots' (2-10) seventh loss of the year by less than 10 points.

"It gets down to three, it's tough to come back," said BBA (9-2) coach Dave Shehadi. "It's a big effort, sometimes they can't get over the top. That's a good basketball team -- a lot better than their record."

Down 41-34 with four minutes left, MAU forced the Bulldogs into a turnover. On the next possession, Otis Selib drained a three-pointer to pull within four. After trading free throws, Muench broke the press, got to the hoop and was fouled. The crowd booed, looking for a traveling call that never came, and Muench's foul shot propped the lead to 47-40.

"I really thought it was a money-time defensive possession," Sleeman said. "Without the foul, we got the break we needed. From my view, I felt we forced a turnover and so did my guys. It was a tough break."

But the Patriots were still in it. Evan Sparta hit one of two from the line and then James Levin knocked down a three from the corner to pull to 47-44. But again, the senior Muench worked his way past the full court press, scoring on back-to-back possessions to ice it for BBA.

"The only way to beat a press is to attack it," Shehadi said. "If they have three guys in the frontcourt, we're going for the rim. [Muench] made some good reads, and sliced through [the defense] pretty good."

"We had it 47-44, it's a critical possession and we didn't convert," Sleeman said. [They're] a quality team, they control tempo, they're fluid on offense and make you work on defense."

BBA's Jake Stalcup led all scorers with 17 points and nine rebounds. Muench added 13, while David Shehadi also chipped in 11 for the Bulldogs.

"Jake has been steady all year, I love that out of my captain," Shehadi said.

Senior Aaryngston Bibens was the high point man for the Patriots, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

The 14-point performance was nearly five points below his season average.

"We defended Aary pretty well," Shehadi said. "We got some rebounds and we were more patient then we have been. Overall we played pretty well."

BBA came out of the gate at high speed, taking a 13-4 lead in the first four minutes and forcing Sleeman to take a timeout to settle his team. Stalcup's trey near the end of the first quarter made it 20-9 and put MAU in a deep hole.

"I think we were sluggish early and couldn't get into the flow," Sleeman said. "Some of the defensive pressure made us uncomfortable."

MAU out-scored the Bulldogs 12-10 in the second as BBA took a 30-21 lead into the locker room.

"I was proud we didn't fold at half and kept it within single digits," Sleeman said. "We made a game of it so that's a positive we can take away."

BBA won both meetings against the Patriots by a combined 13 points.

"We prepared for them and they'll beat some teams," Shehadi said. "We're just happy to get out of here with a win."