BENNINGTON — In the past four seasons and after 77 straight victories, the Champlain Valley Union girls basketball team has won in a lot of different ways.
On Monday against Mount Anthony, the Redhawks won with defense.
Ahead only three at halftime, CVU held MAU to 10 second half points in a 59-38 win that was closer than the final score indicated.
"We decided we were going to play zone until they shot us out of it and they shot us out of it," said CVU coach Ute Otley. "Then at halftime, we talked about playing smart defense and not bailing them out with fouls, not giving them clean looks at the [three-pointer]."
Down 31-28, the Patriots looked to get the advantage early to put the pressure on CVU playing on the enemy court. But early possessions were for naught and CVU scored off a pair of turnovers in the first minutes to quickly extend the lead to 10 at 38-28. The defensive star for the Redhawks was Sadie Otley, who had eight steals on the night.
All told, CVU outscored MAU 17-2 in the third quarter, making a comeback a daunting one for the Patriots. Leading CVU was senior captain Laurel Jaunich, who had a game-high 17 points, and Marlee Gunn, who added 15, including a pair of threes.
"It was as good of defense as we've played this year, so I'm proud of that second half," Otley said.
In the fourth quarter, CVU did an excellent job of keeping the ball out of MAU's hands, ending long offensive possessions with easy layups.
"We passed the ball really well and we talked about that in the break between the third and fourth, that the clock is our friend and all we need are layups," Otley said.
MAU coach Brian Harrington said when CVU switched to a man defense, the Redhawks' height advantage made a major difference.
"They are bigger than us at every spot and that made it tough," Harrington said.
Foul trouble was a concern throughout the night for the Patriots, with two of the team's main players — Brianna Legacy and Kathryn Frasier — sitting out for long stretches as each racked up four fouls.
"We're having trouble getting someone else than our 'big three' to step up, once we do that, we'll be a better basketball team," Harrington said.
Mount Anthony came out on the opening tip and ran with the Redhawks — even faster at some points. They used that momentum to take a 19-15 lead at the end of the first, with Legacy scoring eight of her 11 points in the quarter. CVU got its bearings a little more in the second quarter, tying the game at 26 with 2:26 remaining in the half. Anna Iannotti hit a layup to give MAU the lead back, but five straight points had CVU in the lead at the break. Madison Little led the Patriots with 14 points.
"At halftime, I said to the team that it was fun to be in a game like this," Otley said. "I'm glad a team lit it up against us, we wanted to see if we make the adjustments and I think we did a great job of guarding. Sadie [Otley] neutralized Maddy, which we needed. We changed our approach with Frasier and Legacy, and we got much better rebounding and defending in the second half."
MAU is 3-3 and hosts Burlington on Saturday afternoon as part of a doubleheader with the MAU boys.