EAST MILLINOCKET — Talk about a balanced performance.
The Schenck Wolverines built a nine-point lead in each half largely with perimeter offense, then finally held on with inside play and team defense for a 58-57 survival of rival Stearns of Millinocket at Gillis Gymnasium on Friday night.
The game had all of the intensity befitting the milltown basketball rivalry, not to mention the fact the teams entered the night with a combined 18-2 record.
“This was a big win for us,” said Schenck senior forward Jared Waite, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds as the Wolverines improved to 11-1 with their seventh straight victory. “We needed it to move up in the standings, and it’s important because of the rivalry.”
Waite and frontcourt mate Terry McCafferty combined for 12 points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter as Schenck held on despite a Stearns comeback fueled by two 3-pointers by Brandon Bouchard.
“They had a hard time dealing with our big men inside,” said Schenck coach Steve LeVasseur. “We wanted to go low and we kept going low, and we got some nice layups from that.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we didn’t throw the ball away a whole lot toward the end and did enough to win.”
Junior guard Brandon Theriault led Schenck with 19 points, seven rebounds and five steals — and scored 10 points in the first quarter to spark the Wolverines to an early lead.
Schenck also got a solid defensive effort from junior forward Zach McLaughlin, who guarded Stearns standout Garen Manzo in a box-and-one set during the second half.
Manzo, who scored 12 points in the first half, was limited to just six points on 3-of-10 shooting after intermission.
“I knew Manzo was quick, but if I played tough defense I might be able to hold him down,” said McLaughlin, who also contributed six points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Manzo finished with a team-high 18 points for the Minutemen, now 8-2 after suffering their second straight narrow defeat.
Stearns had fallen from the unbeaten ranks just two nights earlier in a 46-43 loss at Lee Academy — also the only team to defeat Class D Schenck so far this winter.
Theriault scored seven points in the game’s first 2 minutes and 20 seconds to help Schenck take an 11-2 lead.
But after committing eight first-quarter turnovers, Stearns settled down behind Manzo, who scored nine points in the second period to rally the Class C Minutemen to a 28-28 halftime tie.
Stearns then took the lead 48 seconds after intermission on Billy Eurich’s layup off an assist from Bouchard, but five different players then scored for Schenck as the Wolverines ran off 11 unanswered points to take a 39-30 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Schenck advantage was 44-36 entering the final period, but Stearns slowly but steadily narrowed that gap.
Guard Josh MacDonald hit a jumper and a layup and Bouchard added two 3-pointers, the second from the right of the key with 15.2 seconds remaining, to pull the Minutemen within 57-54 with 15.2 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Manzo stole the Schenck inbounds pass but couldn’t finish off a contested layup from the right baseline that could have pulled Stearns within a point. Waite grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws with 9.8 seconds left to give Schenck a four-point advantage.
MacDonald hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Stearns, and finished the game with 16 points. Bouchard added 12 points for the Minutemen.