Bulldogs snag top spot in D-I playoffs
BENNINGTON -- All three local boys basketball teams are in the state tournament, including the top seed in Division I.
After an undefeated 20-0 campaign, the Bulldogs got the upper hand in the index points over Northern foes No. 2 Burlington (17-3), No. 3 Rice, No. 4 St. Johnsbury and No. 5 Mount Mansfield (all 16-4).
Joey Shehadi has been the offensive leader for the Bulldogs all season, statistically, but more than a handful of players can score the basketball, including Tyeshawn Gadson, Taylor Muench and Conor Harrington -- all of whom have had big games this season.
"We've had four guys average in doubles, we've seen teams put a box-and-one on Joey," said BBA coach Dave Shehadi. "It was great what we did during the season, but now it's a new season."
Shehadi has the luxury of depth as well, as nine or ten of his players are strong contributors, including Ryan Smith, a big force on the glass.
There's also been talk about the D-II heavy schedule the Bulldogs played, moving up this season from D-II to D-I.
"It's hard to go from D-II to D-I and schedule high-quality opponents," Shehadi said. "I tell the kids not to listen to the blogs and play who's in front of us. It would be a mistake to take us lightly."
They face No. 16 seed North Country, a team that was 7-13 this season today at Burr and Burton Academy.
Mount Anthony earned the No. 8 seed after an 11-9 season and face BFA-St. Albans on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Kates Gym.
A couple of late-season losses to Burr and Burton and Hoosick Falls knocked the Patriots down to the 8th seed, but they scored the home game on a common opponent tiebreaker over the Comets -- MAU beat Essex, while BFA didn't.
"I actually like the eighth seed better than 7, because we would have faced [No. 10] Brattleboro again, it's nice to have some strangers in the first round," said MAU coach Dan Sleeman.
BFA started their season this year similar to Mount Anthony last year -- BFA lost its first nine games, but have entered the tournament on an 11-game win streak.
"BFA always presses, so we have to take care of the ball, win the rebounding battle and knock down some shots," Sleeman said.
Two starters, Tyler Champagne and Sean Brundage, have been out after knocking heads in a game a couple weeks ago, but Sleeman said the pair are cleared and ready for the opening round.
In Division IV, Arlington comes into the tournament as the No. 13 seed after a treacherous 3-17 campaign, but two wins in the final three games give the Eagles some momentum and confidence heading into their matchup with No. 4 Chelsea on Wednesday night.
Usually, the Eagles are led by their star center, DJ Jennings, who reached the 1,000-point plateau earlier this season and averages more than 15 points a contest. But the Eagles have some spunk in the backcourt with second-leading scorer Austin Hawley, who scored 30 against Black River, and sophomore Nathan Mattison.
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