Patriots, Eagles set to host first round matchups

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BENNINGTON — Home-court advantage will be something our local teams will look to thrive on as the Vermont state high school girls basketball tournament gets underway starting tonight.

Both the Mount Anthony and Arlington girls basketball team will host its first round matchups respectively, with the Patriots grabbing the No. 3 seed in Division I and the Eagles earning the No. 5 seed in Division IV.

The Patriots go into the state tournament on a roll, winning five of their last six games entering the postseason, including back-to-back wins over Otter Valley and Rutland to close out the regular season at 16-4.

"A goal of ours was to be playing our best basketball come postseason time and we're very close to that to be honest," said MAU girls basketball coach Dan Sleeman at practice on Monday. "We've been very sharp on offense the best few games and our energy on defense has been great. We're playing really good basketball right now."

Leading the way for MAU this season has been the senior tandem of Madison Little and Brianna Legacy.

Little is averaging a team-best and area-best 17.6 points a game, while Legacy is not far behind with scoring over 11 points a contest for the Patriots.

While Little and Legacy give the Patriots a dominant back-court duo, MAU also has a great front-court with senior Jordyn Burke and junior Anna Iannotti in the paint. The two bigs have played really well down the stretch especially Burke, who scored 14 points in the Patriots' win over Otter Valley.

Freshman Grace Mahar and junior Kaity O'Brien have both also been valuable weapons for the Patriots at the small-forward position.

The Patriots will play host to No. 14 seed Burlington (2-18) in the first round on Wednesday.

MAU defeated Burlington early on in the season 53-35, but as Sleeman said that game and the seeds don't matter come playoff time.

"I told the girls when the seedings came out that we have to take things one game at a time," Sleeman said. "Anything can happen in the playoffs. We're just going to focus now on game-planning for Burlington and hopefully come out of Wednesday game with a win."

For Arlington, the 2016-2017 season has been a bit of a breakout year for the Eagles.

After going 7-13 last season, Arlington stands at 11-9 entering postseason and its No. 5 seed in the Division IV tournament is the highest seeding the team has had in six seasons.

"I'm very happy with how our team has played this season," said Arlington girls basketball coach Larry Andrews. "Our team really took the initiative to becoming a better team defensively and that has been huge for our success this season. The team has really come together this season and its been a fun to be apart of it."

The Eagles are led by senior Riley Lane, who is the team's leading scorer with 10.6 points per game.

A big advantage for Arlington this season has been its size, with juniors Erin Murphy and Katie Berger each having great seasons offensively and defensively in the paint. Fellow junior Jamie Keel has used her size and length to be force defensively for Arlington on the wing.

Arlington will play No. 12 seed Whitchester, a team the Eagles have not played yet this in the first round of the Division IV tournament tonight.

Even though the Eagles are the home team, the game will not take place at Arlington Memorial High School and will instead be played at Burr and Burton Academy.

Andrews said it's tough not playing at Arlington, but said that playing at BBA can be an advantage for the team with it being a larger court and the Eagles having a lot of team speed, especially in the front-court with Xandria Hoyt and Gracie Smith.

The main thing though Andrews said for his team to come out victorious is to play their game.

"If we can control the boards and take care of the basketball, we're going to have a great chance of winning the game," Andrews said. "With our size and speed I feel like our team is capable of winning a couple games in this tournament."

The Burr and Burton girls basketball team finished at 3-17 and decided not to participate in the Division I playoffs this season.

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


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