Johnson leads MAU to upset of BBA

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BENNINGTON — When the Mount Anthony boys basketball team and Burr and Burton meet up for their rivalry matchup, everything goes out the window.

Records. Don't matter.

Previous matchups. Forget about them.

Expected outcomes. Irrelevant.

MAU came into Saturday night's game as the heavy underdogs, sitting at 1-10, but battled to pull out a 52-45 win at Kates Gym over the Bulldogs

Saturday night's game was a constant back and forth battle. The Patriots would go on a run, but BBA would be quick to answer right back with one of its own.

With the Bulldogs leading by one heading into the fourth quarter, MAU was the team to land the final blow. A 17-9 fourth-quarter advantage was the difference as the Patriots picked up their second win of the season.

"Regardless of the score, these guys have been battling all year long," said MAU coach Marcus Hass. "We've been talking about having to put it together late in games and we did that today."

"Records, scores, everything goes out the window," said sophomore Gavin Johnson. "This is probably the biggest rivalry game of the year and we just came out and played."

The Patriots jumped on BBA early and a balanced scoring attack of Johnson, Brandon Anderson and Austin Grogan put MAU ahead 14-7 after one quarter. BBA was quick to answer back in the second and senior Jake Nicholson was at the center of that. Down by seven late in the half, Nicholson went on a run of seven straight points to tie the game up heading into the half.

With a lot of the Bulldogs struggling, they could always rely on their senior leader to get them back into the game. Nicholson scored a team-high 21 points, burying four 3's in the contest.

"It's all year with him. He's a heck of a leader and a great player. I can't say enough nice things about him," said BBA coach Eric Green.

While Nicholson did his best to keep the Bulldogs afloat, his team had no answer for Johnson, who dominated all night, no matter who was covering him.

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Johnson scored a game-high 22 points and was a force on the boards with 14 rebounds. Johnson did his best work in the second and third quarters, where he scored 14 of his points, helping keep MAU going in the third, when it looked like BBA might take the momentum.

"He always has it in him. He just needs to turn that gear on," Hass said. "When he does turn the gear on, he's hard to stop. He's a force on the boards and that gives us extra possessions all the time."

A major deciding factor in Saturday's game was the foul shooting discrepancy. MAU was near perfect from the line, going 17-for-19, while BBA shot just 8-for-18 at the charity stripe.

Anderson's six free throws in the fourth quarter sealed the Patriots' win.

"For our senior point guard, Brandon Anderson, to step up late in the game and knock down all of his free throws, that's huge. That's the difference in the game right there," Hass said.

Anderson scored 11 points for MAU and Grogan added 11 as well.

MAU improves to 2-11, snapping a 10-game losing streak, while BBA falls to 11-5.

For the Bulldogs, Saturday's game was the second of a back-to-back, after falling to defending-champion Rutland 66-44 Friday night.

A pair of Marble Valley League losses hurts for BBA and all they can do now is regroup and figure out how to get back on track.

"We have the weekend to figure it out," Green said. "If I knew, [this loss] wouldn't have happened. We'll just keep working hard and get better every day."

MAU plays Brattleboro tonight at Kates Gym.

The Bulldogs continue league play against Colonels Friday night. BBA topped the Brattleboro 64-57 in its previous matchup.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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