BENNINGTON — The Mount Anthony girls basketball team is halfway through the 2016-17 season and they've started 9-1, one of the best starts for the Patriots in a few years.
That's only a part of the story, though. They've only played two of its 10 games in the friendly confines of Kates Gym, so they've proved they can get it done anywhere in the state.
"I was concerned about the early season road test, but we passed with flying colors," said first-year head coach Dan Sleeman. "I think that the schedule made us battle-tested."
The Patriots won both games at Rutland's Keefe Gym in the North-South Challenge, then were perfect through a four-game stretch against Pittsfield, Mass., Springfield, Hoosick Falls and Fair Haven.
Mount Anthony had to go to overtime against Essex to score the victory, and didn't lead the game until late against Hoosick Falls, one of the top teams in Section II, Class B. The Patriots have proven they can win the blowouts and the squeakers.
They beat Mill River at Kates Gym and lost to a CVU team in Hinesburg whose nearly 100-game win streak was broken earlier this season.
The game against CVU was in the team's grasp until late in the fourth quarter.
"I think the team would say we gave that game away," Sleeman said. "I think we've turned a corner since that game."
Since that game, MAU traveled to Burlington as the opening game of a boys-girls doubleheader against Burlington. The Patriots surged out to a 20-7 first quarter lead before winning by 18.
They've nearly matched last year's 11-win season before the end of January.
Madison Little is the leading scorer this season, averaging 18.7 points per game, but Brianna Legacy and Grace Mahar are both over 10 points a night as well. Jordyn Burke leads the team in rebounding, and Kaity O'Brien has filled the statsheet with the hustle plays — steals, rebounds, blocks.
"We've gotten contributions from throughout the lineup," Sleeman said.
Now the schedule takes a favorable turn, with seven of the team's final 10 games at home with the Kates Krazies in attendance.
The next two games are at home, one against Mount Greylock on Thursday and the other as the early game of a double-header against Rice, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"Greylock has a girl that is 6-foot-5 and Rice is still undefeated, so we're playing at home but the schedule doesn't get any easier," Sleeman said. "We're at the halfway point in midseason form, but hopefully we can continue to get better and morph into playoff form as it gets closer."