Eye on the prize; Patriots ready for clash against CVU

BENNINGTON — After a couple days full of snow storms and school cancellations, the day has finally come for the Mount Anthony girls basketball team as they head up to Patrick Gymnasium to play Champlain Valley in the semifinals of the Division I tournament.

"We're very excited to get things going [today] and take that next step to reaching our ultimate goal of playing for a state championship," said MAU girls basketball coach Dan Sleeman at the team's practice on Wednesday. "I think the extra days off really benefited us and gave us more time to regroup after Saturday's game against South Burlington. Hopefully we can come out with a win and make it to the finals."

In the way of the Patriots making it to their first championship game in nine years is CVU, a team that has had MAU's number as of late.

The Redhawks are 2-0 against MAU this season and defeated the Patriots in the quarterfinals last year in the postseason in their run to its fourth-straight state championship.

CVU has made it to the finals of the Division I tournament each year for the past six seasons.

"Both games were very close in the fourth quarter, so we know we can plan with them," said MAU senior Madison Little, the team's leading scorer at 16.9 points a game. "If we can make our shots and play really good defense, I feel confident our team can pull out a victory and make it to the finals."

Little, along with fellow back-court mate Brianna Legacy, are the only players who have played in a semifinal contest on the MAU roster. Both were on the MAU team that made it to the semifinals in the 2013-2014 season.

Legacy is the Patriots' second leading scorer with just under 12 points a game and tallied a team-high nine in MAU's win over South Burlington in the quarterfinals.

The senior believes that her and Little's experience from being in a semifinal game can be a big help for MAU in tonight's matchup.

"It's pretty awesome to be going back to the semifinals after not making it the past few seasons," Legacy said. "Being able to make it there with this team has been so much fun. Our team is very confident in one another and that has been the biggest key for us this season."

Both Legacy and Little said that the team's camaraderie and depth has been a huge factor in the team's success this season.

The Patriots have gotten key contributions from up and down the lineup this season. From Jordyn Burke, Anna Iannotti and Grace Mahar being solid players for the Patriots in the paint and on the boards to Brenna Harris sealing up team's quarterfinals win against South Burlington, it's been a team effort to make it to the semifinals for MAU.

"Our team is very close and everybody on our team trusts each other," Little said. "Coach Sleeman has really done a good job promoting us to focus on the positives and that we have any issues on the team, to hash them out together. I think that positive atmosphere has really helped us as a team reach our goal of making it to the semifinals and hopefully we'll check off our next goal of making it to the finals."

Tip-off for tonight's semifinal contest between MAU and CVU is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Reach sports editor Steven Bassin at 802-447-7567 ext 112 or @SBassin_Banner


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