MANCHESTER -- The Burr and Burton Academy boys basketball team is 22-0 for a reason.
It starts on the defensive end, stretches to the team's transition and extends all the way to the offensive glass.
And for the third time this year, the Mount Anthony Union High School Patriots found that out the hard way as the Bulldogs amped up the defensive pressure to cruise to a 64-52 win at BBA that sends the No. 1 Bulldogs to the Division I semifinals at the University of Vermont.
"All year we have done a great job of keeping our composure, no matter what happens," said BBA junior point guard Joey Shehadi. "[MAU] was trying to come back and we didn't lose our cool. We played our game, played some better defense and got some stops and that's when we started converting.
The telling moment of the game came early in the third quarter. With No. 8 MAU trailing 32-21 at halftime, the Patriots came out in the third quarter and cut the lead down to eight when senior Sean Brundage (team-high 12 points) took the ball to the rack, drew the foul and converted the free throw to make it 38-30.
But on cue, the Bulldogs raced back down the other end and junior Tyeshawn Gadson found Shehadi (game-high 22 points) for a three to push the lead to 11. Then Shehadi found Conor Harrington (7 points) to make it 13, then Taylor Muench (16 points) put back his own miss to make it 15 and one more basket by Muench pushed the lead to 17 and effectively ended the game.
"It was them outworking us at key moments in the game," said MAU coach Dan Sleeman. "It was their heart and hustle, just loose balls, little deflections here and there. Some of it was tough luck for us. The hustle part, you get lucky when you work that hard on the little parts of the game."
"The first five minutes [of the third], we try to keep that in mind," said Gadson. "That's what we go into the third thinking about. They hit one shot in the third which we thought would get us down, but we came together and played defense. Defense is our offense."
Shehadi led the way with four steals in the contest, while Gadson had three and the team as a whole recorded nine takeaways.
"MAU is a good team. They have seniors and they laid it out there," said BBA coach Dave Shehadi. "Our defensive intensity, how we hit the boards they were awesome. The effort was big tonight. We had some stuff in the first half go in-and-out, but that will happen in a game like this. What we wanted was an honest effort and we got that - and some."
While the final score indicates the two teams combined for over 100 points, the beginning of the game led the sellout crowd to believe a defensive battle was in store.
Through four minutes in the first period, buckets by Jason Redden for MAU and Shehadi for BBA, both back-to-back, were the only points on the board.
That quickly changed, though, as the clock drew under four minutes. Over the final four of the first, the teams would combine for 26 points with BBA scoring 17 of those to take a 19-11 lead into the break. Gadson was the dynamo in the first, hitting two big threes including one on a pass from Harrington right before the buzzer.
"It was a big night for Tye," coach Shehadi said. "He is such a gifted player. He didn't have his best game in the quarterfinals, and he responded really well. He was electric. He defended very well, and he got us going early."
For Gadson, the personal accountability went a long way on Friday.
"I owed it to my teammates to come out and play defense," Gadson said. "I wanted to show how we wanted to win and wanted to go up north. It's all defense first."
Said defense went on display in the second. BBA limited MAU to just 10 points in the quarter and only Damon Burgess scored more than one basket as he put up all five of his points in the second. For BBA, Gadson and Muench each had a trey and a field goal to pace the scoring.
"Momentum in this game was huge," Joey Shehadi said. "It was close in the first couple minutes. No shots were falling and It was all over the place. We settled down and once we started making a couple shots we got confidence and started making more of them and that is where the momentum comes in. We were forcing them to take bad shots and we were making our shots."
After BBA's run in the third extended the lead to 47-30, Brundage came out of an MAU timeout and nailed a three to try and give the Patriots some life, but BBA answered with a run of eight-straight points to push the lead out to 55-33 on another Shehadi triple and the Bulldogs would enter the fourth up 55-36.
In the third quarter, Shehadi went off as he scored 15 points including three 3-pointers, a field goal and four made free throws.
"I wasn't getting the open shots in the first half and I knew I had to be more aggressive," Shehadi said. "I drove it to the rim a few times and crashed the glass pretty hard. I just had to really focus and lock in."
In the fourth, BBA would extend its lead to 62-36 on a layup by Ryan Smith before coach Shehadi cleared the bench to let his starters get some rest at the end of the game. Over the last several minutes, Carson Cushman scored eight points for MAU to bring the score to 64-52 to end it.
Shehadi finished with a double-double, adding 11 rebounds to his point total while also adding four assists and four steals. Gadson had seven rebounds and two blocks to go with his 13 points and Harrington had a whopping five blocks. For MAU, Brundage finished with his own double-double, adding 10 rebounds to his point haul, while Hao Guo had five rebounds and two steals and Tyler Champagne finished with five rebounds and two assists.
The win sends BBA to Patrick Gym at UVM for a match against No. 5 Mount Mansfield, which upset No. 4 St. Johnsbury Academy on Friday night. The game will be on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Last year, the Bulldogs got to go to the Barre Auditorium during the tournament. But for Shehadi, the trip to Patrick means just a little bit more.
"I'm speechless. Last year at Barre was unreal, but I've heard better things about Patrick. I just really look forward to it."