HAMPDEN, Maine — The top of the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball standings boasts several contenders of fairly equal ability.
So when two of them square off, the expectation is for a close contest with the home team usually prevailing.
Both Hampden Academy and Mt. Blue of Farmington met those expectations Thursday, with Jacob Moore scoring a career-high 35 points to lead the host Broncos to a 74-70 double-overtime victory.
Mt. Blue and Hampden, ranked third and fourth in unofficial Heal point ratings entering the game, are both 6-2, with all the losses coming on the road.
“This was a great game as far as being a measuring stick of where you fall in the pecking order,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett, “understanding that when we go over there [Jan. 30] it will be a very tough game again just like today.”
Moore was the master of the midrange shot, making 12 of 21 tries from the field and 11 of 15 from the free throw line.
“I was just looking for the seams and [my teammates] all did a good job of seeing me cut into the zone,” Moore said.
The 6-foot-5 junior scored all 13 of his team’s points in the third quarter to keep Hampden close, and added eight points in the second OT.
“Jacob had not shot the ball well to start the year, so we told him no more 3-point shots, we needed higher-percentage shots closer to the basket,” Bartlett said.
“I think we’ve always felt Jacob could be a really, really special player on the offensive end but he hadn’t quite got it yet. Today he let the game come to him, he didn’t force anything and he played the way we envisioned he could scoring the basketball.”
Junior guard Nolan Turner also came up big for the Broncos. Held to five points through three periods, Turner began driving through Mt. Blue’s defense late in the game and scored eight points in the fourth quarter and six in overtime to finish with 19.
“The last game against Lawrence I turned the ball over a lot so I was trying to make sure that didn’t happen again,” said Turner. “I just wanted to take good shots to benefit the team.”
Turner also teamed with Brad Hersey and Greg O’Donnell to apply relentless perimeter defense against Mt. Blue standouts Ben Russell and Jamie Sawyer. Russell scored 21 points and Sawyer added 18, but both were challenged on nearly every possession.
“They played the whole second half and two overtimes and only committed eight fouls,” said Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey. “That was outstanding defense on their part.”
Mt. Blue also got 10 points and five rebounds from freshman center Cam Sennick. He started in place of Adam Wiles-Rosell, who was sidelined due to illness.
Mt. Blue built a 14-point, second-quarter lead, but Turner made a 3-pointer and Brad Dolan hit a follow-up shot and a 3-pointer to help Hampden draw within 36-29 at intermission.
Hampden finally pulled even when Noah Burditt was fouled while making a steal with 2:14 left in the fourth quarter and made one of two from the line for a 52-52 tie.
The teams traded baskets to close out regulation, with a drive by Turner with 1:05 left tying the game at 54-54 and sending the game to overtime.
Moore gave Hampden the lead for good at 66-65 on a layup with 2:11 left in the second OT.
After Mt. Blue missed two free throws, the Broncos made six straight from the line to extend their lead to 72-65 before Russell hit a 3-pointer and scored again after stealing an inbounds pass to cut the gap to two with seven seconds left.
Hampden then inbounded the ball successfully, and Dolan made two insurance free throws with 5.4 seconds left.