HAMPDEN, Maine — Sometimes, all it takes is one shot to change the course of a basketball game.
With his Brewer boys trailing Hampden Academy by two in the waning seconds of the first half of a Class A showdown Tuesday night, Ray Bessette’s 3-pointer from the left corner bounced off the back of the rim, rolled around the iron and dropped in as the buzzer sounded, giving his Witches a 32-31 advantage.
They never trailed after that, holding the Broncos to seven second-half field goals while dictating the tempo in earning a 69-57 victory at a packed Hampden Academy gym.
While Bessette, one of four Witches in double figures with 15 points, was certainly happy he gave his team the lead, he was thinking about the bigger picture.
“I think it was more of a momentum [swing] going into the second half,” he said. “That’s what we really needed.”
The first half was a game of runs, as Brewer (2-0) jumped out to a 10-3 first-quarter lead only to see Hampden (1-1) embark on a 12-4 spurt to end the quarter, with six of those points coming from Jacob Moore.
The Witches opened the second period on a 7-2 run before the Broncos again responded to take a 31-25 lead, their biggest of the night, with 1:34 left in the first half.
But Brewer scored the half’s final six points — capped by Bessette’s buzzer-beater — and assumed control.
“It always helps to make a shot like that before half,” Brewer coach Ben Goodwin said.
It also helps to have scoring balance, which the Witches did. Ray’s brother, Tyler, led Brewer with 21 points, while Nate Carson contributed 12 and Jordan Richards 10.
Brewer started to pull away in the third, as Carson’s layup gave it a 40-33 lead at the 5:27 mark, but coach Russ Bartlett’s Broncos responded again, pulling within one on Brad Dolan’s baseline pull-up jumper with 4:07 left.
But the Broncos would manage only one field goal over the next 7½ minutes, and Tyler Bessette’s one-handed floater in the lane gave Brewer a 12-point cushion with 5:22 left in the fourth, and Hampden got no closer than eight.
“I thought they played with more energy than we did,” Bartlett said. “I know its disappointing not to show up the second half and compete and we didn’t. They outplayed us, they deserved to beat us.”
The Witches outscored the Broncos 19-11 in the third quarter.
Brewer’s quickness and perimeter defense denied Hampden sharpshooter Graham Safford any clean looks, and the Witches held him to 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the floor.
“That’s exactly what we were trying, just getting in his head not giving him any clear looks at the basket and it worked for us,” Tyler Bessette said.
Moore led the Broncos with 17 points while Noah Burditt had 12, doing most of his damage in the post while the quick Witches frustrated Hampden’s guards and forced 15 turnovers.
“I challenged our guards to match up with their guards, and they took the challenge,” Goodwin said. “They played with a lot of heart, they played smart, they did a good job playing as a team.”
Brewer also did an outstanding job on the glass, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds as a whole, and shot 23-for-40 from the free throw line.