BENNINGTON -- The Mount Anthony Union High School boys basketball tried and tried to claw its way back into Monday's contest against Burr and Burton Academy.
But the Bulldogs pulled away every time en route to a 78-64 win at Kates Gym.
"I think that is why [MAU coach] Dan [Sleeman] plays the way he does, it is hard to pull away from those guys," said BBA coach Dave Shehadi. "Those kids can really shoot. All of a sudden they hit a few threes and you are in a bog fight."
Joey Shehadi continued to be a dynamo for the Bulldogs, leading the way with 26 points, including four 3-pointers, while Conor Harrington added 21 points and Tyeshawn Gadson had 14 in the win.
Ethan Anderson had 15 for MAU and Sean Brundage scored all 13 of his points in the second half.
MAU would come closest to taking its only lead of the contest during the third quarter. In the period, BBA would go up 48-38 on a pair of free throws from Tyeshawn Gadson, 2 of 25 made attempts for BBA in the contest, but MAU cut the lead to 48-43 on a putback by Brundage then a trey from the senior. Gadson would score on a Euro step into the paint to push the lead back to seven, but Hao Guo (9 points) cut the lead back to five on a putback of his own.
That would be as close as the team would get, though, as three free throws by Harrington put BBA back up eight and the Bulldogs would push the lead to 10 on a triple from Gadson to make it 58-48. Tyler Champagne would hit a three for MAU before the quarter ended to make it 58-51, but another pair of free throws by Harrington put BBA up 60-51 to start the fourth and the team would hold on from there.
"I was feeling pretty good when we got it to 58-53 [sic]. It was a matter of in critical moments, them knocking down shots and us not making shots," Sleeman said.
To open the game, Cody Gilbert opened the scoring with a three off a pass from Taylor Muench (game-high 5 assists), but MAU was able to knot things up at 5-5 on a trey from Guo.
The three only served to spark the Bulldogs, though, as BBA answered with another triple from Gilbert to spark a 8-0 run to give the team on a 13-5 edge on a corner trey from Harrington.
MAU would cut the deficit to 13-9 on a trey from Alec Little (10 points), but again the Bulldogs responded as Shehadi and Muench hit threes to put the team up 19-9, starting a 13-2 run to end the quarter and put BBA up 26-11.
"Anybody on this team can hit a three, which is nice," Muench said about the team's offense. "We are all shooters, we trust each other. If I drive and kick, I have the trust in that person to hit the shot."
For Sleeman, the barrage in the early going fortified what he already knew about BBA.
"Early in the game, they couldn't miss," Shehadi said. "There were a couple out of transition where it was a good look, but a lot of them had a hand [in their face]."
In the second, BBA would maintain its 15-point lead on a layup by Shehadi to make it 31-16, yet the Patriots refused to go away and slowly started chipping away at the score.
A steal-and-finish by Anderson would cut the deficit to 31-18, then a trey by Damon Burgess (5 points) got the score down to 10.
BBA would push back out to 13 on a bucket by Harrington, but again MAU made a run to cut the score. With BBA up 36-23, MAU scored five-straight on a putback by Little and a trey from Anderson to cut it to eight, and a three from Anderson off a Guo pass cut the lead to 43-36 with only seconds left in the half.
Shehadi, though, wasn't content to let the score stay like that entering the break.
Taking the inbounds pass, Shehadi launched a shot from three-quarters court. The ball smacked off the glass inside the square and crashed through the net, making it 46-36 going into the break.
"Momentum wise, as much as we try to turn the page [at halftime], that one hurt," Sleeman said.
After the back-and-fourth third quarter and Harrington free throws to start the fourth put BBA up nine, Brundage would hit a three to cut it to six but that would be as close as the Patriots got the rest of the way.
BBA shot 25-for-35 from the line while MAU shot 4-for-12.
"It is always good when you make free throws, and when you make them it is easier to get the win," Muench said.
Harrington led all players with nine rebounds while also adding four assists, two blocks and a steal. Shehadi finished with six rebounds and two assists, while Muench four rebounds to his stat line. Champagne, Brundage and Guo all had six rebounds for MAU. Champagne added three steals and Guo had three assists.
BBA moves to 16-0 and returns to action at Mt. St. Joseph on Thursday. The win over MAU capped a five-game stretch against Division I opponents and all but seals a Marble Valley League title for the Bulldogs, who are 7-0 in MVL ‘A' games.
"We didn't expect it, but the kids earned it," Shehadi said of the perfect stretch. "We aren't through yet. We have four games left and Thursday is a tough one."
MAU falls to 9-7 and returns to action today against New York school Hoosick Falls Central.
"I think we are making slow, steady progress in our play," Sleeman said. "We have to turn the page and get ready for a 16-1 team tomorrow. It doesn't get any easier, that's for sure."