Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- In what could turn out to be bad news for opponents down the road, the Mount Anthony Union High School boys basketball team bears little resemblance to what it was a month ago.
Now, the Patriots are a playoff team.
Winless as of Jan. 14, Mount Anthony earned its sixth win in nine games since on Thursday night, clipping Mount St. Joseph, 57-47.
Aaryngston Bibens, the Patriots' go-to player all season, stood out one last time at Kates Gym. Bibens poured in a season-high 27 points -- 20 in the second half -- and collected 14 rebounds to ensure they would meet the school's playoff-eligibility standard, winning at least 30 percent of their games.
"It's kind of bittersweet, because it's the last time I'm going to get to play here, but we had to get it done and get into the playoffs," Bibens said.
"Now we can really show what kind of team we are," he said.
Senior guard Jahnathan Mitchell led the Mounties (12-6), ranked fourth in Division II to start the night, with 18 points, one of three in double figures. Matt Sanborn added 12 points and 11 rebounds, and Bryan Pitts chipped in with 11 points.
Held to just three points in the first half, Mitchell caught fire in the fourth quarter. He knocked down three of MSJ's first four baskets -- all 3-pointers -- to whittle a 12-point MAU lead down to just five, 43-38.
But the Patriots (6-12) withstood the Mounties' late rally for the second time in as many weeks.
"MSJ is a good team with a good record and the kids followed the gameplan," MAU coach Dan Sleeman said. "We shared the ball and had some good possessions, especially in the last four minutes when they could've made it a two-possession game."
Answering Mitchell's third trifecta, Bibens knocked down a triple of his own, snared the next defensive rebound and pushed the ball back up the court to pull up and drill another 3-pointer at the top of the key, setting the lead back to 11.
"I was looking to shoot. I was trying to make up for my misses and it went down," Bibens said.
It was part of a second-half stretch in which Bibens scored 10 of the Patriots' 12 points to keep up with Mitchell, who hit for 11 of 13 for MSJ.
Early, it Mount Anthony's half-court defense -- a 1-3-1 zone that frustrated the Mounties -- that saw the hosts to a 22-17 halftime lead.
Sean Brundage tallied 12 points and eight rebounds, while James Levin scored eight for the Patriots, who close the season with road games against Marble Valley League opponents Rutland and Brattleboro.
"Sometimes it's not that pretty but these guys have overcome some big-time adversity this year and I have to give them credit for hanging in there and being able to extend their season," Sleeman said. "Regardless what happens these next two games, we're in the playoffs and that's exciting."