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<B>Mount Anthony Union High School&rsquo;s Morgan Hewitt, right, drives to the basket during a practice on Monday at Southern Vermont College as the Patriots prepare for the Division I state semifinal tonight at 6 p.m. against Rice at the University of Vermont&rsquo;s Patrick Gym. Seniors Kate Goodell and Brinkley Legacy come over to play defense on the play. The Patriots are making its first semifinal appearance since 2008.</B>

BENNINGTON -- The Mount Anthony Union High School girls basketball team started its season against the Green Knights of Rice, a 61-50 loss.

Nearly three months later, the Patriots and Green Knights are squaring off again -- and the stakes are much higher this time around.

MAU and Rice will face off tonight at 6 p.m. at Patrick Gym on the University of Vermont campus in the Division I semifinal and the winner gets to play for a championship.

"We're definitely closer than before, we're a family, so hopefully we can play together," said senior Carly Rogers. "We've got better [in the past two months] too, we have to go out and show them who's boss."

Mount Anthony comes into the game as the No. 3 seed at 17-4, while Rice is the No. 2 seed at 20-2, both losses to the undefeated CVU Redhawks.

MAU coach Brian Harrington said adjustments have been made from Game 1 to Game 22.

"We can't foul as much as we did in the first game," Harrington said. "We're definitely a better team and that should help. If we make the shots we are expected to make, we should be right in it."

Rice is led by senior Hailee Barron, the leading scorer with 17 points per game. She also has averaged 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists a game this season.

At practice on Monday at Southern Vermont College, assorted players wore a yellow pinnie to simulate keeping tabs on Barron.

"Putting the yellow vest on is definitely a good idea because Hailee is a very unique player, she's going Division I with a full ride," said MAU senior Kate Goodell.


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"I played with her in the summer with Lone Wolf (AAU) and she can pull up in your face or drive right by you. If we can play good defense and single her out, that'll help us in the long run."

Rice's second-leading scorer, Lexy Avonda, is out with a torn ACL in her knee, putting the load on Carolyn Shell (7 points per game) and Gemma Cirignano (6 points per game).

"It doesn't change anything, we still have to play defense on the others," Harrington said. "Can we play 1-on-1 defense against Barron? We need to rebound the ball and not give them second, third, fourth chances."

Harrington also got some help from some unlikely sources on how to stay with and take down the Green Knights.

"I was able to talk to the Brattleboro and Rutland coaches at the Marble Valley League meeting," Harrington said. "They both had success against Rice so they were giving me some tips as a rookie coach."

For the seniors, it's the final chance at a state championship, with 2008 being the last time MAU raised the banner.

"We're going in as the lower seed, and we have to leave it on the court," Goodell said. "Win or lose we'll be happy. Obviously, we want to win, but if we leave everything out there, we'll be happy. It could be our last game ever, for some of us."