Patriots hit glass in playoff win
BENNINGTON -- Heading into Wednesday night's opening round playoff game against No. 9 BFA St. Albans, Mount Anthony Union High School boys basketball coach Dan Sleeman had a simple gameplan.
"We wanted to have two shots on offense and hold them to one-and-done at the other end," Sleeman said.
Through a consistent 32 minutes, the No. 8 Patriots did just that, out-rebounding BFA by 20 and rolling into the quarterfinals with a 68-54 win at Kates Gym and stopping the Bobwhites' 11-game win streak.
"The rebounding was huge, especially in the second [quarter]," Sleeman said. "It was a big momentum change in the last two minutes of the half and the first five [minutes] of the third.
After the first quarter ended with MAU clinging to a 15-14 advantage, the Patriots used a 15-6 run, including a pair of threes from Tyler Champagne and one from Sean Brundage to take a 10-point lead into the break at 34-24.
Brundage led the Patriots with 22 points, including five of Mount Anthony's 10 three-pointers on the night.
"We shot the ball well tonight and you have to knock down shots," Sleeman said. "They were amped up early, the adrenaline's flowing, the first playoff game is the toughest one."
In the third, the teams traded baskets, with MAU keeping its lead in double digits until the end, when BFA's Tristan Menard hit two jumpers in a row to make it 49-40 after three quarters.
"We tried to spread them out in the third quarter, they run a 1-1-3 [defense], so we were getting openings on the backside," Sleeman said. "In the beginning of the fourth, the team had the feeling [BFA was] back into the game. I sent the message that they [could] make a run, we just needed to make some shots."
The Patriots turned up the heat in the fourth quarter, starting with a 9-0 run that including a Hao Guo bucket in transition and Brundage's fifth 3-pointer of the night well beyond the arc. Then Jason Redden, a grinder all night on the block with seven points and seven rebounds, ate up an offensive rebound on a miss and got the three-point play to give MAU a 17-point lead with five minutes to go.
"Those guys mean a lot. We won the game because we got a lot of rebounds on the offensive boards," said senior Evan Sparta. "We worked on rebounding and I think we did a good job tonight."
Brundage was the high scorer for MAU, but eight others entered the scoresheet including Guo with 9, Redden with 7 and four tied with six -- Champagne, Alec Little, Damon Burgess and Sparta.
BFA was led by Micah Murray's 17 and followed by Matt Sanders' 16.
Now, MAU moves on to face Route 7 rival Burr and Burton Academy on Friday in the quarterfinals.
"It's a 20-minute bus ride, usually we have to go three hours somewhere," Sleeman said. "It's big for Southern Vermont. It's just like a home game, we're both familiar with each other. I'm just proud of the guys to get this opportunity."
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