MANCHESTER -- On the first day of winter break, the Burr and Burton Academy boys basketball team seemed to come out against Mount St. Joseph on Monday night a little sleepy.
The undefeated Bulldogs led by only four at the half, thanks to 17 first-half points by junior star Joey Shehadi. So coach Dave Shehadi made sure his guys knew things were not right.
"It's human nature to not to be as prepared as you should and we weren't in the first half," Dave Shehadi said. "I got on them as good as I've gotten on them and they responded, so I'm proud of them.
That response came in a major way, as BBA scored the first 20 points in the third quarter and rolled from there to a 75-45 win over the Mounties, their 18th win in a row.
"It could be anything," said Shehadi, downplaying the winter break as a cause for the sluggish first half. "We've played solid ball all year, you expect in the course of a season to have a bad night, we've had a few halves like that this year."
BBA took a 22-11 lead after one quarter and looked to be going on all cylinders, but sputtered in the second. MSJ went on a 13-2 run in the first five minutes of the second quarter, with Shane Protivansky's only basket tying the game at 24-24 with 3:10 left in the half. After Shehadi was 1-of-2 at the line, Nathaniel Kingsley put the Mounties in the lead for the first and only time. Then Shehadi went to work, scoring on three straight possessions with a pair of 3-pointers and a layup to make it 33-29 at the half.
Shehadi scored all 17 of his points in the first half, while Taylor Muench quietly had nine in the first 16 minutes.
"I really think easy layups come from defense and rebounding," said Tyeshawn Gadson, who tied for the game-high with 17 points. "We have a lot of good passers. We're looking up the floor all the time."
After the half, the Bulldogs came out rejuvenated and proved it. Gadson scored on two jumpers to start and Muench and Conor Harrington each hit from deep to make it 43-29, then Muench (15 points, four rebounds and three steals) went strong to the hoop for a three-point play, forcing a frustrated MSJ coach Jeff Cassarino into a timeout to regroup.
"We try to look up the floor," Shehadi said. "Joe rebounded the ball well and found the other guys, that gets the crowd going. [MSJ] played box-and-1 on Joe and others stepped up."
Shehadi had 14 rebounds to go along with his 17 points.
BBA continued the onslaught, with baskets by Gadson and Harrington (10 points) and then a three from reserve Cody Gilbert, his only basket of the night for a 53-29 advantage.
"In the locker room, Coach Shehadi said that the first five minutes make the difference," Gadson said. "They had too many offensive rebounds in the first half, so we had to come out in the second half and dominate."
A shell-shocked MSJ was held to 17 points in the second half and only four field goals -- two in the final minute of regulation with the game in hand.
The Bulldogs improve to 18-0 on the year and face Leland and Gray tonight and then Windsor on Friday to try for the perfect regular season. But Shehadi said the key is to take each game one at a time.
"It's tough to play someone three times [like MSJ]," Shehadi said. "We've got playoffs starting next week and we just have to focus on playing good basketball."