The Rutland girls basketball team continues to grow. For evidence, just look at its stretch of play late in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s 53-37 win against rival Mount Anthony.

The Raiders led all night, but MAU threatened to change that. The Patriots whittled down the lead to five points, forcing Rutland coach Nate Bellomo to call a timeout.

Teams can either falter in those moments or step up to the plate.

The Raiders hit a home run, going on a 6-0 run and extending their lead in the fourth to clinch a comfortable win.

“As we grow as a team, we need to eliminate those little runs,” Bellomo said. “If we have a lead, we need to keep building on it. I thought we showed signs of maturity, not going the negative way. We bounced back, so that’s a positive sign.”

Rutland jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game and held MAU scoreless for the first half of the opening quarter.

The Patriots eventually responded to cut the lead to four by quarter’s end.

The Raiders built their lead to 10 with a 6-0 run to start the second quarter and continued to extend from there. Fueled by active hands on the defensive end, Rutland forced MAU into mistakes and took advantage.

Nobody embodied that defensive effort more than junior guard Kendra Sabotka. Sabotka drew the tough defensive assignment of Patriots’ star Grace Mahar and handled it well. In the first half alone, she had four steals.

On the offensive end, she paced the Raiders with a trio of 3s, while going 3-for-4 from the line.

“(Kendra) was a big part of keeping the lead and continuing to grow the lead when they made a run,” Bellomo said. “She had a good game all around. She played really good defensively on (Grace) Mahar.”

Sabotka led the Raiders with 17 points, adding her fourth 3 of the day in the third quarter.

The Patriots’ third quarter run to narrow the deficit was spurred on by Mahar, who scored the team’s first eight points of the frame. An elite rebounder, she had been kept in check on boards, before the half, but broke through with some big offensive rebounds during the third.

Rutland knows all too well what the senior point forward can do and it threw a box-and-one formation at Mahar many times throughout the game to stifle her.

“She’s starting to adjust to that. She likes to dribble and wants to shoot it,” said MAU coach Larry Andrews. “She’s starting to get some confidence in our guys on the outside.”

Mahar had 19 points and seven rebounds. She was active defensively with four steals as well.

Even though Mahar got her numbers, Bellomo was happy with his team’s effort to keep her in check.

“There’s part of them that likes that challenge,” Bellomo said. “I laid out the challenge to them to take her out of the game. I thought we did a good job of stepping up. We rotated people out on her and frustrated her.”

Rutland improves to 5-3 and hosts Burlington on Friday. The Raiders edged the Seahorses earlier in the year.

MAU, who saw lots of graduation losses heading into the season, drops to 2-9.

“We had a pretty decent effort,” Andrews said. “A couple kids played more minutes than they normally do and we hung in there. We still have to work on our offensive, but we’ll figure it out. We’re improving every game.”

adam.aucoin

@rutlandherald.com

Follow Adam on Twitter: @AAucoin_RH

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