BENNINGTON -- A win is a win.
The Mount Anthony Union High School boys basketball team led Fair Haven by double digits midway through the fourth quarter of Monday's contest, but the Patriots had to settle for a narrow 64-63 win at Kates Gym.
"I thought we had several opportunities tonight to seal the game and get out of here with a comfortable win," said MAU coach Dan Sleeman. "But to their credit, they hung around and didn't give up and battled."
It was a game that Mount Anthony seemed in control of throughout, but the Patriots were unable to hold the Slaters off for long stretches of time.
MAU went up 8-4 early in the first when Ethan Anderson (16 points) stole a pass and went the distance for a layup, but Fair Haven would take a 13-10 lead on a three from Alex Fontaine (game-high 37 points). The Patriots would respond by going up 16-13 on a trey from Anderson on a pass from Damon Burgess, and Jason Redden (7 points) would give MAU a 21-15 lead going into the second quarter on a putback underneath the basket.
In the second, Fair Haven started chipping away at the lead immediately and would take a 24-23 lead on a putback by Fontaine, but again the Patriots took the lead back with a pair of free throws each from Anderson and Brundage to lead 27-24. At halftime, MAU would hold a 32-27 lead.
While the Patriots would have liked a bigger cushion at the break, MAU was able to force 17 turnovers, including 11 steals, in the first half leading to 12 points on fast breaks. Outside of the lane, though, the Patriots struggled to knock down shots.
"We struggled to shoot tonight," Brundage said. "What we need to work on is offensive rebounding hard. That helps our offense out a lot."
After the break, MAU would go up seven on a free throw from Redden to make it 37-31, and later in the third would go up eight on a trey from Alec Little (5 points) on a pass from Anderson to make it 49-41. But before the period ended, Fair Haven responded with a trey from Tyler Beayon to make it 49-44.
"I think we were able to break them down a little bit," said Fair Haven coach Bob Prenevost. "They were trapping us and we were able to break them down at times and got easy looks. At other times, their athleticism worked out so it balanced out."
The fourth quarter started out picture-perfect for the Patriots, with the team going on a 9-0 run to start the quarter and take a 58-44 lead on a baseline jumper by Redden.
The Slaters refused to quit on the game, however, and slowly started chipping away.
Fontaine led the charge with eight of his 37 points in the fourth, while Taylor Kyhill hit a three to cut the lead to 60-51 with just over three minutes to play.
Fair Haven kept going, and Beayon hit a three with just over 30 seconds left to make it a 64-60 lead for MAU.
"We helped them make the run at the end," Sleeman said. "We had some defensive breakdowns at key moments, and had some questionable offensive possessions down the stretch.
After MAU started the fourth with the 9-0 run, the Patriots only scored six more points the rest of the way.
"I can't tell you why [we kept fighting]," Prenevost said. "Other times this season we have folded. We are starting to believe in each other and play with each other. We hung in there tonight."
Brundage went to the line late with a chance to push the lead to five, but missed on the first shot of a one-and-one to give Fair Haven the ball back with 11 seconds.
Fair Haven would get off one last shot, a three by Lucas Czarnecki (13 points), but it came as time expired, allowing MAU to walk away 64-63 winners.
"I felt comfortable for the most part down the stretch," Sleeman said. "But I thought we had some key possessions late that we could have played smarter on offense and worked the clock more...When you go to using clock it is a whole different ballgame. That is something we have to learn."
Anderson finished with four steals and two assists to go along with his 16 points, while Justin Burgess had four steals and four rebounds for MAU. Fontaine had a double-double, adding 11 rebounds to his 37 points.
Sleeman noted Anderson's performance after the game, saying "[Ethan] all night had great energy. He didn't seem to get tired. I think he picked up some of the other players a little bit."
MAU moves to 7-3, while Fair Haven falls to 4-5. MAU returns to action on Friday in a home game against Rutland at 7 p.m.