Assistant Sports Editor
MANCHESTER -- Joey Shehadi could see his time was running out.
Entering his sophomore year, his first on the Burr and Burton Academy boys basketball team, he knew it was the only opportunity he had to play at the Barre Auditorium, the tradition-soaked home of the state semifinals in Divisions II, III and IV.
With the Bulldogs poised to take the leap to D-I for his final two years, it would be his only shot at securing what amounts to a birthright trip in his own family.
Shehadi's brother, David, now a senior, reached the Aud with BBA last year. His sisters, Sarah and Nina, were key pieces on the unbeaten team that claimed a girls basketball championship in 2008. His father, Dave, the current BBA boys coach, played there for the school in the 1970s, leading pair of Division II title squads.
So Joey had a bit of a legacy to uphold this winter. The sharp-shooting guard's 18-point effort in the quarterfinals last Saturday didn't hurt, either.
"The stories I've heard and I've witnessed when my sisters won the state championship and when I saw him there last year -- that's the only place I've wanted to play," Joey Shehadi said. "I'm beyond excited. Words can't really describe it."
And it only follows that Dave Shehadi is happy as a coach -- his second-seeded Bulldogs (20-2) face No. 3 Lake Region (20-2) on Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. -- and a dad.
"I could never even ask for it and here it is," Dave Shehadi said.
"Barre is a magical place."
A Final Four team last season as well, BBA emerged as a contender despite graduating an experienced senior group.
"I think this team deserves to be there. Early in the year we didn't know what we were going to have," Dave Shehadi said. "But we got two things we needed to have new senior leadership and some young kids stepping up.
"It's a little bit of a surprise, but once we saw what was emerging it was not a surprise."
An all-Shehadi starting backcourt has developed into one of those strengths -- and a source of confusion for scorekeepers.
David, the point guard, wears the No. 10. Joey, the shooting guard, sports No. 21.
Each is quick with a smooth jumper. Almost perfect matches in height, build and blond haircuts, they are often hard to identify any way other than head-on. A look from the side, catching a "1" on the uniform, doesn't always tell the story, something that happens with regularity.
"Almost every game," Joey said.
"Even when we watch game film," David started -- "I mistake myself for him," Joey finished.
Both are threats from behind the 3-point arc, but David says he's the better defender, while Joey is the better shooter.
"The way we complement each other, it's crazy," Joey said. "He does the dirty work. He does the hardest work on the team. He passes the ball, has the most assists."
"As long as we get the win I'm happy," David added.
And he last time BBA won a state championship in basketball, in 2008, two Shehadis were on the team. The sisters also had a similar on-court dynamic.
"It's funny because when my sisters won Nina was the one who shot all the 3s and Sarah was the point guard," David said.
"It's an unreal parallel," Dave said. "We laugh about it."
But BBA is deep beyond its brotherly backcourt. Senior center Jake Stalcup leads in scoring and rebounding, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds a game, and senior Weston Muench -- whose dad, Bill, is an assistant -- also averages more than 10 points a game.
Sophomore Conor Harrington is another scoring option, a versatile inside-out player at 6-foot-3.
"He's got a beautiful touch, he passes [well], he's relaxed, he's starting to rebound and defend a little better," Dave Shehadi said. "The kid's going to be a heck of a player."
Lake Region, which plays a mostly Division III slate, did not face a D-II squad until the first round of the playoffs.
Drew Gallup is the Rangers' go-to man on offense, averaging roughly 17 points per game.
Gallup also is the point man in a trapping defensive scheme that takes advantage of their deep bench.
Winners of 12 straight, the Bulldogs have only allowed one team to hang 50 points or more on them and that was Division I semifinalist Rutland, the last squad to beat them.
They are eager to continue that run Wednesday.
"Both our losses, we were ahead in the second half and didn't [finish]," Dave Shehadi said. "These kids know how to play. We've won some tight games and they have a lot of confidence right now."
Note: Check Wednesday's Banner for a preview of No. 7 Arlington's Division IV semifinal matchup with sixth-seeded West Rutland.