ORONO, Maine — Some victories are competitive moments to be savored, others are ordeals to be survived.
For unbeaten Washington Academy of East Machias, Wednesday night’s 79-57 victory over Orono — though as comfortable as the final score suggests — was closer to the latter.
The Raiders, coming off an emotional 72-63 win at defending Class C state champion Calais on Monday night, struggled against Orono’s 2-3 zone defense but ultimately relied on its own lightning-quick defense to force 25 turnovers and earn its seventh win of the season.
“We did not play well at all,” said WA senior forward Bryce Colbeth, who scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “We just beat Calais at Calais, so there was going to be a drop-off. It was kind of tough to get up for this game.”
Senior guard Ben Teer paced the Raiders offensively with 22 points, including 12 in the third quarter on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. Justin Morren added nine points and Noah von Rotz and Sam Stevens scored eight points each.
Brandon LeVasseur had 20 points and 12 rebounds for 3-5 Orono while James Marsh added 19 on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. But the Red Riots were undone by early turnovers — 15 in the first half alone — that Washington Academy converted into instant offense while building a 37-15 halftime lead.
“We always live off our defense,” said Washington Academy coach Steve Pineo.
The Raiders, currently ranked first in Eastern C, jumped out to an 8-2 lead, thanks in large part to baskets by Teer, Morren and Stevens that all came after steals.
But Orono kept the Raiders’ halfcourt offense in check early on, and used a six-point run of its own to forge an 8-8 tie on a drive by LeVasseur with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
But Washington Academy ratcheted up its defensive pressure and held the Red Riots scoreless for the next 5 minutes, 50 seconds while running off 15 unanswered points.
Teer stole the ball and drove for a layup, then followed a steal and a three-point play by Morren with a long 3-pointer to give the Raiders a 16-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Von Rotz scored in transition to open the second quarter, and Romayn Richards followed with a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer to stretch the margin to 23-8 before Marsh finally answered for Orono with 4:30 left in the first half.
Colbeth soon went to work on the inside, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds over the final 3:30 of the period, an effort highlighted by two baskets scored directly after offensive rebounds.
“One of the things we’re learning is that we need to be more patient,” said Teer. “Tonight our offense was swing, swing, shot, but we know we need to take more time to get the ball into the post and make the defense move, and that’s when we’ll find the gaps.”
Teer, just 2-of-9 from the field in the first half, unloaded on the Red Riots in the third quarter, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 25 seconds to give Washington Academy its largest lead at 66-37.
“It was such a big challenge for us on Monday,” said Teer, the leading scorer for a Washington Academy team now averaging 73.0 points per game. “We all looked forward to it, we all got ready and we were at the highest of the highs.
“But tonight we learned that we can’t stop, we’ve got to keep climbing.”