BURLINGTON — Mount Anthony boys basketball coach Dan Sleeman knew his team was in trouble early on in the Patriots' semifinal matchup with Burlington at Patrick Gym when Seahorse senior Asmin Mostarlic let fly from 25 feet.
Mostarlic made that bomb and three others from beyond the arc and when all was said and done, the senior had 24 points to lead Burlington to a 68-46 victory, ending Mount Anthony's season at 19-4.
"They were on big time early, we were off big time, and that's a tough combination [to beat]," said Sleeman more than a half-hour after the final whistle. "It didn't work out, it was a huge hole to overcome, the best we could do was trade hoops. We wanted to make Mostarlic beat us from the outside, then they starting beating us from the inside too."
Burlington came out firing from the get-go, snagging an 8-0 lead in the first two minutes and eventually taking a 21-8 lead after the first quarter and putting the Patriots on their heels.
"We didn't have quality offensive possessions early," Sleeman said. "We had some open looks, we were settling off, and the key to playing at Patrick Gym is to get the early baskets. [If you don't,] then it becomes mental. [Burlington] defended it well, you need a couple of breaks early. The kids weren't nervous or overwhelmed, they're not that kind of team."
The second quarter was a little better for the Patriots, but Mostarlic continued his hot shooting, as did the rest of the Seahorses — Garrison was next with 14 points on 5-of-6 from the field and Josh Hale added nine — and Burlington led 35-15 at halftime.
"There wasn't much we could do," said an emotional Tyler Champagne afterward. "I kept saying, stick together and leave it all on the floor. It's an emotional time, we're still a family. The memories [will] last forever, this town and experience, we'll remember forever. The coaches have been getting us ready all year for this moment and it wasn't that we didn't execute, they played really well."
In the third, MAU nearly doubled its first half output with 13 points, but the lead at the end of the third was the same as halftime as Burlington scored 13 as well to make it 48-28.
"The second quarter was huge, we wanted to make a push and the best we could was trade baskets. coming out in the third, you can't trade baskets [down 20]," Sleeman said. "Most teams block off Jonas [Parker] with two players, Burlington did it with one. It was tough sledding for them, their defense was better than our offense."
Parker led the Patriots on offense with 12 points on 6-of-16 from the field, well below his average of 26 points a contest. He did add eight rebounds. Champagne was next with 11 on 5-of-10 shooting, while Damon Burgess had six points, all in the first half.
In the fourth, Burlington stayed out of reach, while both teams put in second teamers for some minutes on the Patrick Gym court.
Josh Parker had four, Ryan O'Neill three and Atrael Pineiro three in the final minutes.
"These guys have bought in from day 1, it's an amazing group of kids," Sleeman said. "Some years, you spend the whole year trying to get them to buy in, but that was definitely not the case this year. They were motivated, came ready to play, we progressed well as a team, but in the 32 minutes today, Burlington was better than us."
Sleeman said despite the final outcome on Saturday's semifinal, he was pleased that the team got the community and school excited for Mount Anthony boys basketball again.
"We had big things in front of us when we started — low attendance at home, we weren't fun to watch," Sleeman said. "We had a huge challenge ahead of us, we not only met that challenge but exceeded it. We got the student section going again. This team was something special.
Champagne spoke of the relationships that strengthened so much during the year.
"We've accomplished more than anyone could expect," said the senior. "We're not happy with the outcome, but we fought through adversity, even though the odds haven't always been in our favor. We're a family, we're good."