Patriots exhibiting balance to begin season

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BENNINGTON — The last time the Mount Anthony boys basketball team took the court for a meaningful game they were walking off in disappointment, falling to Burlington 75-59 in the first round of the Division I tournament.

MAU faced an issue a lot of schools in the southern part of the state face, struggling to compete with large, Metro schools up north.

A few weeks later, one of the Patriots' Marble Valley League foes, Rutland, topped one of those mighty Metro teams in the state finals and that provided MAU some confidence heading into the 2017-18 season.

The Patriots know they'll most likely have to go through the Burlingtons and the Champlain Valley Unions of the world to get to the ultimate goal, but in their mind, if Rutland can do it, why can't they?

"Everybody has that one goal of getting to a championship," said second-year MAU coach Marcus Hass of the goal for the season. "It takes a lot of work to beat some of those Burlington-metro area teams. It's possible to do it. Rutland did it last year and these guys have it in their mind that this season didn't go as planned unless they get up into Patrick (Gym)."

The Patriots finished last season at 8-13 in D-I and were the No. 14 seed in the state tournament, so they'll look to improve that moving into this season, especially since they are just two seasons removed from a state semifinal run.

Last season's team was one predicated on a balanced offensive approach with three different players scoring more than 200 points. Hass is hoping this season's squad will bring a similar balanced approach.

"We're not a selfish basketball team and with this group, I think we have a lot of guys who can score the ball," Hass said. "Last year we were able to depend a couple guys who could score the ball and do everything out there for us. It's really nice to have a bunch of guys who can contribute."

MAU will have to figure out how to replace the offensive exploits of its two top scorers from last season, as Matthew Anderson and Ryan O'Neill both graduated last spring. Anderson led the Patriots last season with 328 points, an average of 15.6 points a contest en route to a Marble Valley League All-star first team selection. O'Neill scored 254 points last season (12.1 per game) and had two 20-point games.

MAU returns its third-leading scorer from the 2016-17 squad in Abe Amidon. Amidon, a junior, turned a lot of heads as a sophomore scoring 203 points, despite not playing the the Patriots' final four games.

An intriguing addition for MAU will be freshman Gavin Johnson. The 6-foot-3 big man figures to get a solid helping of minutes down low for the Patriots. Johnson also plays football and was a wide receiver on the team this season.

Having begun practice just last week, it's important that MAU comes together quickly before its opening game this Saturday against Essex in North-South Challenge. The Patriots will scrimmage Mount Greylock this week, so that will act as a good barometer of where the team is before the opener. Hass has been impressed with what he's seen so far.

"As far as development, I feel like these guys are picking things up really quickly," Hass said. "It's a good group. They like each other, so they have good chemistry and that helps everything out. They help each other out when somebody doesn't know something."

Saturday's game against the Hornets is set for a 1 p.m. start at Keefe Gym in Rutland.

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


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