Rams opportunistic in beating Cougars

Posted Feb. 03, 2009, at 11:17 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Dominance of the backboards enabled the Bangor boys basketball team to stay close to Mt. Blue of Farmington on Tuesday night.

Some timely perimeter shooting enabled the Rams to hold off the Cougars 48-44 in a clash of Eastern Maine Class A contenders at Red Barry Gymnasium.

The win was Bangor’s second of the season over Mt. Blue and 10th in its last 11 games this winter, leaving the seventh-ranked Rams (12-5) still with a shot to move into the top five and earn a preliminary-round bye with a win at Brewer on Thursday in their regular-season finale.

“That is the hope,” said Bangor guard Nate Frazier, one of five players honored during Senior Night ceremonies before the game. “So we’ve been really practicing extra hard and trying to work for that fourth or fifth spot. It may not happen, but we’re really hoping that if we can pick up another win it will.”

Bangor controlled the tempo with a 31-22 rebounding advantage spearheaded by senior forward Dan Taft (11 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore forward Zach Blodgett (10 points, 12 rebounds), as well as sturdy man-to-man defense featuring senior guard Ryan Larochelle, who shadowed high-scoring Mt. Blue guard Ben Russell.

Russell finished with 17 points but made just 7 of 18 shots from the field as he shared team scoring honors with backcourt mate Jamie Sawyer.

“We were trying to hold both Russell and Sawyer to 10 or 12 points apiece like we did when we played down there,” said Larochelle. “All of their sets are setting Russell and Sawyer to go off double screens, back screens and fade screens, but we really helped out a lot tonight with the big guys stepping up to hedge on the screens and that helped a lot.”

Larochelle (10 points) also put Bangor ahead to stay at 33-31 with a 3-pointer off a long offensive rebound with 5:50 left in the game.

“I think we had two guys down low on their five guys rebounding because somebody had just taken a long shot,” said Larochelle. “They’d been crashing the boards hard all game and doubling and tripling down, and that frees Nate and I to shoot so we were just waiting for a kick-out or for someone to tip it out.”

Taft followed with a spinning move through the lane for a three-point play before Frazier hit two free throws and a 3-pointer of his own to cap off an 11-2 run that gave Bangor a 41-33 lead with 3:30 to play.

“I felt like if we could get ahead of Bangor we could beat them,” said Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey, “but we got a one-point lead and then they came down and hit a 3. We kind of had them going a little bit, but then they took the momentum back and were very patient on offense.”

Fourth-ranked Mt. Blue (12-5) did creep back to within 46-44 on a layup by Ryan Backus with 39 seconds left and then regained possession on a backcourt turnover by Bangor, only to come up empty at the offensive end.

Frazier made 1 of 2 from the line with 18 seconds left to make it a three-point game, but Mt. Blue could not convert on any of three shots it took on its next possession.

Bangor’s Zane Gray then hit 1 of 2 from the line with 3.5 seconds left to give the Rams a four-point cushion.

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