BREWER, Maine — Billy Bissell had spent much of the evening watching his Brewer teammates maintain a modest lead over Hampden Academy, the victim of foul trouble.
But when the Witches finally relinquished that lead early in the fourth quarter, the senior forward shook off those individual woes to score seven straight points for his team during a two-minute stretch as Brewer held on for a 53-49 Class A boys basketball victory Tuesday night.
Hampden, which trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, rallied behind junior guard Brad Dolan to take its only lead at 37-36 with 6:46 left in the game. The teams then were tied at 39-39 when Bissell — who played the final 7:08 with four fouls — attacked the basket on three straight possessions to restore the Witches to a 46-41 lead with 3½ minutes left.
First he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored while being fouled, and Bissell added the free throw to restore Brewer to a 42-39 lead with 5:18 to play.
Then he took a pass from Tyler Bessette and scored from the lane, and after Hampden’s Nolan Turner countered with a drive to the basket, Bissell added a layup after Dom Drake drove the baseline and passed him the ball.
“It was kind of frustrating,” said Bissell of the foul trouble, “but coach [Clayton] Blood said to keep my focus because I was going back in. Once I got back in I got my focus, went to the boards every time and we kept the lead.”
Hampden (1-1) was persistent until the end, particularly Dolan, who scored his team’s next eight points to pull the Broncos within 50-49 with 1:40 left.
Hampden got the ball back, but after a Broncos timeout Brewer switched the rangy Drake onto Dolan defensively. Dolan got inside for a shot, but couldn’t get it to fall and Brewer regained possession.
The Broncos got the ball back after a missed Brewer free throw but were guilty of their 20th turnover, a five-second call with 9.2 seconds left.
Bissell gave Brewer its final four-point cushion by converting a three-point play off an assist from Coby Hutchins with 4.4 seconds to play.
“Once they got ahead a point or two, we knew we had to get the momentum back to us,” said Bissell. “We just kept finishing and getting those and-one calls, and then we made the free throws and that’s how we won tonight.”
Drake led 2-0 Brewer offensively with 18 points, while Bissell scored 14 points — 12 in the fourth quarter — to go with eight rebounds. Point guard Kyle O’Connell contributed eight points and six assists.
“Our philosophy offensively has been to ‘make a play,’ that’s what we encourage,” said Brewer coach Clayton Blood. “Dom and Billy on offense and the defensive plays we made and the passes over the top are just that, making plays, and that style’s coming for us.”
Dolan led Hampden with 18 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, while Noah Burditt scored 11 points and Turner added nine. Jacob Moore grabbed eight rebounds for the Broncos but was limited to six points by Hutchins’ strong man-to-man defense.
Drake and Hutchins opened the game with 3-pointers to stake Brewer to a quick 6-1 lead. That margin that grew to as much as 23-13 on a drive by Ray Bessette with 5:06 left in the first half.
But the Witches couldn’t put Hampden away, as the Broncos used two drives by Turner, two free throws by Moore and a short jumper and a free throw by Wyatt Bisbee to close within 25-22 by intermission.
Brewer moved took a 34-26 lead midway through the third quarter as Drake made a layup and a follow-up shot and O’Connell followed with a leaner from the lane and a 3-point goal.
But Burditt scored twice and fed Moore for a fast-break layup to rally Hampden within 34-32 entering the final period.