BENNINGTON -- Celebrating Senior Night and opening the playoffs at the same time, the Mount Anthony Union High School girls basketball team weathered the early emotional storm to take a commanding 61-48 win over Spaulding in the Vermont Division I playdowns.
The 3-seed Patriots held a slender 13-8 lead after the first, but a 25-point barrage in the second opened up a 38-19 lead going into the break that helped the Patriots create some separation and secure the win early.
"At first, when we first saw the decorations, we were all thinking about Senior Night. But as the game went on, we were thinking ‘wow, this is our first playoff game, we have to go out and win for each other,'" said senior Kate Goodell.
In the second quarter, Goodell hit a trey and added another bucket to help with the scoring load, while fellow senior Makayla Farrara (team-high 9 points) knocked in a trey of her own and added four more points. In total, seven Patriots scored in the second as the team outscored the Crimson Tide 25-11.
"I think the confidence level for the kids really raises when they know they can shoot the ball with confidence and they have shots that are going in," said MAU coach Brian Harrington. "Some kids that don't play a lot were able to make some shots for us.
The scoring slowed down for the Patriots in the third, but the team was still able to outscore Spaulding 13-11 in the frame. Seniors Carly Rogers (8 points) and Jenna Crowley (6 points) each hit a three in the period to help pace the scoring and put MAU up 51-30 going into the fourth.
"[The second quarter] allowed us to breathe a little bit. I thought we were a little tight to start," Harrington said. "That team is better than a 14-seed and we knew that coming in. The second half we just had to play without turning the ball over and just keep trying to rebound the basketball."
Over the final eight minutes, Spaulding was able to chip away at the lead but were unable to make a real run towards tying the game. Spaulding outscored MAU 18-10 in the quarter behind five points from Katie Thygeson (game-high 12 points) and four points from Paige McNally (6 points), but the closest the team would get would be the final scored of 61-48.
While the Senior Night festivities threw the MAU rotation off in the first quarter, once Harrington got his units back in order the team started to really take off.
"[The second unit] is huge because not only do they have the confidence to [play well], we expect it out of them at this point, they are all kids coming back next year. They are getting some valuable experience right now."
Goodell, who starts on the first unit, added that "Everyone is strong at shooting and taking it to the rim. We do have a strong five starters, but we sub out and the new five comes in and picks up where we left off. They are really good at not only picking up where we left off, but giving us the boost we need [when we come back in]."
Goodell finished with five rebounds, four assists and two blocks in the win. Freshman Madison Little added five rebounds, three on the offensive glass. In total, 13 Patriot players recorded some sort of statistic in the game. Elizabeth Clark (6 points) and McNally each had five rebounds for Spaulding.
MAU returns to action on Saturday at Kates Gym at 2 p.m. against the 6-seed Brattleboro.