HAMPDEN, Maine — Closing out games has been the Achilles’ heel of the Mt. Blue boys basketball team this winter.
The Cougars from Farmington were faced with that situation Monday afternoon against Hampden Academy, as the Broncos battled back from an 11-point first-half deficit to tie things up in the fourth quarter.
But coach Jim Bessey’s club responded with defense and clutch foul shooting, closing the game on a 16-6 run to earn a pivotal 58-48 victory in the second game of a Class A doubleheader.
The Hampden girls beat Mt. Blue 68-43 in the opening contest.
In the boys game, Mt. Blue appeared to be in control in the first half, holding the Broncos to 7-for-24 shooting from the field while taking a 30-22 lead into halftime.
After trailing 42-32 to open the fourth, Hampden started that period on a 10-0 run, capped by Brad Dolan’s reverse layup with five minutes to play. That prompted Bessey to call timeout, settle his team down and remember the basics.
“Stay smart, complete our passes, don’t do anything foolish, limit the turnovers,” was Bessey’s message, said Cougars’ senior guard Jordan Hoyt.
Out of the timeout, Cam Sennick sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to give Mt. Blue the lead back, while a baseline pull-up and driving layup along the baseline from Hoyt stretched it back to six with 2:07 to go.
Hampden’s Graham Safford then sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to bring his team back within three, but the free-throw line ultimately won this game for the Cougars, as they went 11-for-14 from the stripe in the fourth quarter while Hoyt was 5-for-7, scoring nine of his 12 points in the period.
Sennick, a sophomore center, paced a balanced Mt. Blue effort with 15 points and 15 rebounds while Jake Malone, who drew Safford defensively, scored all five of his points in the fourth.
“I thought the Malone boy did a great job guarding him throughout most of the night,” said Bessey, whose club entered play 10th in Class A while Hampden was third. Both teams are now 9-4.
The Cougars switched periodically from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone on defense, which frustrated the Broncos’ shooters. Safford was 3-for-9 and Jacob Moore only 3-for-17.
Even though they were at a disadvantage in the paint, the Cougars went right to the heart of the Broncos’ interior defense and were rewarded with 27 free-throw attempts.
“They’re obviously bigger, stronger, more physical than us, but I just thought we came to play and put on a good effort, and we just kind of held on at the end,” Bessey said.
Brad Dolan led Hampden with 15 points while Safford had 11.
In the girls game, after a couple of unforced turnovers early in the first quarter, Hampden methodically took control of the game.
Coach Chad Bradbury’s club (7-6) outscored Mt. Blue (0-13) 12-4 over the final 2:08 of the first quarter, capped by Ashley Danforth’s three-point play.
Katelyn DeRaps led the Broncos’ balanced offense with 13 points while Kate Parsons had 12, Helene Sherburne nine and Danforth eight.
“It was definitely a team effort and we’ve been practicing a lot on our shooting, so it really showed in our game today,” said Parsons, who helped spearhead a 26-for-55 Hampden shooting effort from the floor.
Hampden took a 15-point lead at halftime and stretched it as high as 26 with an 11-0 run to open the second half. Parsons scored seven of her points during that stretch.
Even though a big game with Cony of Augusta looms Saturday, the Broncos weren’t looking past the Cougars.
“We figured that anyone can play with anyone, so we just had to play hard,” said DeRaps.
Hilary Chaney led Mt. Blue with 10 points.