BREWER, Maine — In their first three games of this young basketball season, the Brewer girls had yet to see a zone defense.
Knowing Bangor was going to throw a 1-3-1 scheme at them, the Witches worked on it diligently in practice Monday night.
Coach Andy Nickerson’s club exhibited solid patience offensively Tuesday night, earning 38 trips to the free-throw line (making 25) with Sheri Valley, Jordan Nickerson and Leah Jackson combining for 22 points from the line to spearhead a 48-35 victory over the Rams.
Brewer (3-1) trailed throughout the first quarter, as they kept adapting to Bangor’s zone look, but Valley’s conventional three-point play with 26.4 left put Brewer up for good.
“We practiced it a little bit in practice [Monday], but that was the first time we’ve seen a zone all year,” said Valley, who led all scorers with 18 points, including 10 in the second half.
The Witches turned up the heat a bit in the second quarter, working the ball around the perimeter into the post, which resulted in many of Brewer’s free-throw attempts.
“I thought our kids did a really good job of being patient offensively to try and get the ball inside where we wanted it,” said Nickerson.
Brewer stretched its lead out in the second quarter, outscoring Bangor 12-4 over that span. Nine of those points came from the line, turning a three-point lead into an 11-point halftime advantage.
That spurt was capped by Meghan McLain’s deep buzzer-beating 3 from high above the key, as she picked up a loose ball and calmly buried the shot.
“Time was running down, so I had to try to get a shot off before the buzzer,” said McLain.
Once Brewer got accustomed to Bangor’s zone, the Witches did a solid job of not settling for the perimeter looks which the Rams were giving them and forcing Bangor into attack mode defensively.
“Once we got the ball inside, I thought the post kids did a great job finishing around the hoop,” Nickerson said.
“Coach always says take it to the hoop and finish strong, all of us tried to do that,” Valley added.
The Rams (1-3) refused to quit, as Meagan Doucette reeled Bangor back into the contest with eight third-quarter points.
Doucette’s short pull-up with a minute to go pulled coach Tom Tennett’s club back within 31-24 after trailing by as many as 13 in the period.
“You’ve got to respect Bangor. They didn’t lay down, they fought back,” Nickerson said.
The Rams’ foul trouble would prove too much in the fourth, as the Witches sank nine of 17 free throws in the period and their advantage peaked at 18.
“We’ve been doing great all year from the line, so hopefully we’ll keep it up,” said McLain.
Jackson was a force from the line, scoring all 10 of her points on free throws (10-17).
Valley was 6 of 7 from the line and Nickerson 6 of 8.
Brewer had the edge on the glass, as they limited Bangor’s second-chance opportunities throughout the game.
“Our goal was to limit them to one shot per possession,” Nickerson said.
Valley was tough on the backboards for Brewer, collection eight rebounds with McLain and Terri Boulier combining for eight more.
Doucette led Bangor with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting.