BRATTLEBORO — Thursday night’s basketball game between Brattleboro Union High School and Mount Anthony Union High School (MAU) had everything that a spectator could ask for in a game between two division rivals. In a playoff-like atmosphere, there was drama, intensity, an incredible comeback, overtime, and an outstanding individual performance.
Behind Paul McGillion’s 41 points, the Colonels (9-7) pulled away from the Patriots (6-9) to take an 87-80 win.
“Paul McGillion stepped up tonight. He finished more often than he has, so it was just a matter of time before he was going to break out,” said Brattleboro Head Coach Jason Coplan. “For him to go out and get 41 was remarkable. Also, it was a testament to the passes going into him that needed to be made so he could get those shots.”
McGillion had scored 17 points at the half, going 5-for-5 from the free throw line to give Brattleboro a 38-30 advantage going into the third quarter. The second half started with McGillion scoring six of Brattleboro’s 12 unanswered points to give the Colonels a 20-point lead just over two minutes into the third.
Brattleboro’s lead swelled to 25 points with 3:39 left in the quarter.
Then the MAU Patriots regained their composure and showed their heart in the process.
Behind Carter Thompson and point guard Shemar Sookdar, who combined to score 10 of the Patriots’ 18 in the remainder of the third quarter, MAU chipped away at the lead.
Brattleboro began the final frame with a 66-52 lead.
During a timeout just 27 seconds into the fourth, the Brattleboro fans began to clap and chant “Ball game over.”
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
“They showed a lot of fight. We’ve been looking for that this year,” said MAU Head Coach Hunter Stratton. “I think today was the day they really did it. It’s good for us moving forward. We need to show some fight. We need to show that we can play for each other and we’re never out of games.”
Sookdar, who finished with 23 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers. A couple plays later, Sookdar found Austin Bellville on the baseline. Bellville knocked down a 3-pointer and was fouled on the play. He made it count to bring MAU within five points with 4:53 left to play.
Sookdar fouled out not long after, which left MAU without one of its biggest weapons the rest of the game.
“He’s our point guard and our second leading scorer, leader in assists. So, it makes it hard not having such a leader on the floor,” Stratton said.
A few minutes later, MAU had possession of the ball coming out of a timeout with Brattleboro leading 77-71. Finn McRae hit a 3-pointer to pull MAU within three points. With 39.4 seconds left to play, MAU regained possession when a timeout was called. The Patriots’ Josh Worthington looked at his bench and screamed “Come on” to help spark his teammates.
“Josh just does so much for our team. He’s really the heartbeat,” said Stratton. “Everyone rallies around him. His energy is always good. … He picks us up in games like he did tonight. He’s just always bringing it.”
The team responded.
After a near steal by Brattleboro, Thompson found McRae on the baseline and he knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game 77-77 with just seconds left to play. Brattleboro was able to get the ball on their end of the floor but could not draw iron before the end of regulation.
Going into overtime, Coplan said he tried to get his team focused on the fundamentals.
“I told them to meet the ball and I told them to work for a layup and just all the minor details that we talk about and work on in practice to execute,” Coplan said.
Brattleboro won the tip and Tate Chamberlin, who finished with 11 points, hit a 3-pointer to start overtime. The next possession, Cam Frost, who was the team’s second leading scorer with 15 points, split the defense for a layup to give the Colonels a five-point advantage.
“Tate and Frost and Paul, they’re usually our main go-getters, so it’s nice to see. Irv Melo is what created that spark in the second quarter when Frost had to come out with two fouls, but I thought everyone that played contributed really well,” said Coplan.
Thompson narrowed the gap with a free throw and two more by Worthington after a pair of MAU steals cut the Colonels’ lead to 82-80.
In the end, it was McGillion who put the game out of reach. Coming out of a timeout, the Brattleboro big man scored off a put back to make it 84-80. A layup by McGillion with about 40 seconds left in overtime sealed the victory for the Colonels. Frost added the remaining point, going 1-for-2 from the line with 18.3 seconds left to play.
Thompson led MAU in scoring with 25 and Bellville finished with 17.
Despite the loss, Stratton said he believes the game will help the team going forward.
“It does a lot for us. They’re a good team. We knew it was going to be a tough test and we just got to keep getting better every day,” he said.
Thursday’s game set the stage for the rematch of the two teams on Monday, Feb. 20, at Mount Anthony Union High School.
“It’s going to be a fun one at Mount Anthony in a couple of weeks,” said Stratton.