BANGOR, Maine — The worst-case scenario had crossed the minds of at least some of the John Bapst of Bangor boys basketball players — several of whom were coming off a state championship football season.
But Wednesday night’s 50-48 Big East Conference victory over Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor at the Bangor Auditorium not only removed the Crusaders from the winless ranks, but also offered hope of better things to come.
“There were some questions about us maybe going 0-18 this year, so to get a victory against a good team is just a huge thrill for us,” said John Bapst junior forward Shane Hass, who scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. “We’re hoping for a big turnaround.”
John Bapst had suffered five of its nine losses entering the contest by six points or less, and faced the imminent threat of another frustrating defeat when MDI opened the third quarter with 12 unanswered points after John Bapst had grabbed a 26-17 halftime lead.
Senior guard Terrance Jones sparked the Trojans’ comeback with intense perimeter defense, as he had three steals during a string of five consecutive John Bapst turnovers.
But on this night the rebuilding Crusaders — just one player on the roster had varsity experience from a year ago — battled back, as sophomore Lucas Philippon made a reverse layup to spark a six-point run that restored John Bapst to the lead for good.
Junior guard Ryan Carr followed with a drive, and Hass then scored off a feed from point guard Bill Wetherbee to give the Crusaders a 32-29 lead with 1:48 left in the third period.
“Terrance had a couple of steals in a row, but from that point on Billy did a real good job of handling the pressure and getting us into our stuff,” said Carr. “Once we were in the half-court we were able to execute well enough to get the shots we needed.”
MDI crept within two points on five different occasions during the fourth quarter, but John Bapst made 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch to maintain its lead.
“They came out after halftime with that 12-0 run, a pretty good 1-2 punch, but we took it and came right back with a couple of punches of our own,” said John Bapst coach Rick Sinclair. “That’s a sign that we’re gaining confidence in our skills, and tonight we were able to hang on down the stretch. It’s a good place to start the second half of our season.”
Carr and Philippon each scored 12 points to pace John Bapst offensively, while Wetherbee dished out four assists while working against significant full-court defensive pressure throughout the evening.
“It hasn’t been for lack of effort all year long, it really hasn’t,” said Sinclair. “One thing we know we can control is how hard we play, and then tonight we played a little better, we made some shots, we got some rebounds and we finally got a couple of bounces. Then we sealed the game off at the foul line.”
MDI, now 5-5 after a 3-0 start this season, struggled with its shooting against John Bapst’s 2-3 zone. The Trojans had 21 more field-goal attempts than John Bapst but made just 33 percent (20 of 60) of its tries from the floor, and also shot just 31 percent (5 of 16) from the free-throw line.
Senior forward Nate Ward led the Trojans with 12 points and six rebounds, while senior guard Nolan Hall had 10 points and Jones had nine points and six steals. Freshman forward Jayson Burke grabbed nine rebounds for MDI.