BENNINGTON >> Mount Anthony boys basketball coach Dan Sleeman said after Tuesday's Division I opening round playdown against Spaulding that the Crimson Tide were the best team in the tournament, outside of the top four seeds.
No. 13 Spaulding played like a team that could hang with anyone and did with the Patriots for most of the 32 minutes, but No. 4 Mount Anthony took over when it counted and advanced to the Division I quarterfinal with a 71-62 win at Kates Gym.
"We've been a gritty team all year, we've had this [situation] a few times," Sleeman said. "At critical times, they find a way to get positive offensive possessions."
Jonas Parker led all scorers with 26 points for the Patriots, many of them tip-ins on missed shots from his teammates. He also ended up with 15 rebounds for a double-double. Tyler Champagne added 17, including 11 in the first half when he was hitting NBA-range three-pointers and Damon Burgess added 12 as well.
Ahead by only a single point into the third quarter, the Patriots went back and forth with the speedy Tide, eventually getting down 44-40 with about four minutes left in the quarter. MAU senior Hunter Davis gave the Kates Krazies something to cheer about on the next possession when he stepped up and knocked down a three and was fouled, completing the rare four-point play to tie the game again at 44-44.
"At halftime, I told them that [having a close game] was very good for them," Sleeman said. "We weren't attacking off the dribble enough, we had a lot of one and dones, but we came back strong in the second half."
The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter as the game remained tied at 51-51 heading into the fourth. MAU took a lead shortly in as Parker hit a pair of baskets for the Patriots. With 3:59 left in regulation, Mount Anthony took a timeout with a slim 5-point advantage and started to slow the pace, forcing the Tide into playing extended defensive possessions. Parker's 23rd and 24th points of the night came on a jumper beyond the foul line to extend the lead to 66-60 and then made a pair of free throws on the next possession for an eight-point lead.
The Mount Anthony defense came up with a steal on Spaulding's trip down the floor and Davis got the foul, making both free throws for a 70-62 lead. Davis made the play of the night on the defensive end, taking a charge to get the ball back with less than a minute remaining.
"Hunter doesn't get a lot of publicity, but he hit big shots," Sleeman said. "He had a tough defensive assignment."
Brandon Bedard led Spaulding (8-13) with 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.
"[Spaulding] didn't fold, they didn't want their season to end, and neither did we," Sleeman said.
Early on, MAU looked like they would cruise, taking a 25-10 lead after the first quarter, but then the Tide started to make some plays and come back and a three from Dominick LaCasse to end the half made it 34-33 at the break.
"Even down 25-13, I told our guys that they are known for runs, they'll come back, don't get complacent," Sleeman said.
Matt Allen, who scored more than 30 the last time they faced MAU, was held to 12, none in the final eight minutes.
"Hunter and Pat [Powers] chased him around in the second half and he was off, and I think that was a big difference," Sleeman said.
Mount Anthony will face the winner of today's game between No. 5 CVU and No. 12 St. Johnsbury.