Patriots' season ends in semifinal defeat

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BURLINGTON — Twice this season, Mount Anthony led four-time defending Division I champion Champlain Valley late in the third or early in the fourth quarter.

Both times, CVU finished the game on long runs to put away the Patriots.

So when Madison Little hit for three of her game-high 25 points to pull within a basket, they didn't think it could happen again.

But it did, as CVU went on an 13-0 run and secured its seventh consecutive trip to the championship with a 51-36 victory on Thursday night at Patrick Gym.

"CVU was solid in lot of special team stuff, in the third and fourth, they scored on some timely inbounds plays and I thought that hurt us," said MAU coach Dan Sleeman. "There were a couple possessions that hurt us where we didn't even get a shot off. You can't make those mistakes against a team like CVU, they capitalize on it."

Little made it 34-32 on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but from there, Harper Mead hit a free throw and Marlee Gunn, who was second in scoring with 10 points, hit a pair to make the lead 39-32 for the Redhawks.

Little's 25 points put her third all-time on the list of top Final Four scoring games, behind MAU's Lyndsey Moore's 31 back in 2007.

"It was exciting when Maddy hit that shot," said senior Brianna Legacy. "Our mindset was to get a lead and protect it, but every time we did, we struggled to keep it."

Gunn hit another shot moments later to jump the lead to nine and eventually, CVU led by 15 before Little hit her fourth triple of the night.

"I think part of it is that we get into our heads, it's hard to get out of it," Legacy said. "If something doesn't go right, it's really hard to shake it off.

For the first time this season, Legacy didn't score, and she only took five shots, so the Redhawk defense was up to the task.

"It was definitely hard to get going, CVU pressures well on the point guard," Legacy said. "I just stopped thinking about it, if it doesn't fall, it doesn't fall."

Sleeman said Legacy has a tough job leading the offense and playing defense on the other team's best player.

"Bri has a tough job playing the point and setting the tempo of the game, she's not one to force her shots," Sleeman said. "They defended her pretty well but we wouldn't be here without her leadership through the entire season."

Another tough assignment was against CVU's Shannon Loiseau. The 6-foot-1 junior just missed a triple-double, scoring nine points, grabbing 14 rebounds and swatting away 10 Mount Anthony attempts.

"Their size down low was tough, they aren't used to having their shots blocked," Sleeman said. "We talked at halftime about getting the ball into the post, go in, back out and back in, but their size definitely bothered us."

MAU took a 9-8 lead after the first quarter. Little made 1-of-2 from the line in the final seconds of the frame and Grace Mahar's offensive rebound led to a Little jumper to give MAU its first lead of the day right at the end of the quarter.

In the second, CVU scored the first eight to pull out to a 16-9 lead, but Little scored all eight of MAU's points to make it a 4-point game at halftime, 21-17.

"We were trying to go into our one tight defense and shut them down and force turnovers, but it wasn't going our way," said senior Jordyn Burke, who scored two points and had six rebounds in her final game for the Patriots. "We felt like we could win this, but all of a sudden, it slips away just like that."

CVU came out of the locker room hot, putting up a 11-4 run to make it a double-digit lead halfway through the third. But MAU wouldn't be denied, scoring the next eight of their own to pull within three at 32-29 after a pair of Little free throws.

Mount Anthony finishes the year 18-5 and caps the careers of Madison Little, Brianna Legacy, Jordyn Burke, Brenna Harris and Ally White.

"I'm proud of them, they obviously fought all the way to the end," Sleeman said. "They didn't give up at all and it's hard to do that. [In the locker room], I told them thank you for making this one of the most enjoyable seasons I've had, with all the changes, taking over the girls team. They are a fun group to coach. I feel bad for the seniors, you always do when you lose your last game."

Legacy said this year's team was the closest they had in her four years with the Patriots.

"We got to end where we started [as freshmen, at Patrick Gym], so it was a great thing," Legacy said.


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