BY ERNIE CLARK
OF THE NEWS STAFF
FARMINGTON — The long and winding road to this Franklin County shire town is paved with danger for many basketball teams each winter.
So when the Brewer Witches had some bus difficulties en route to Mt. Blue High School for Tuesday night’s battle of Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference contenders, it could have been just the first chapter in a troubling road trip experienced by many teams before them.
And when Mt. Blue’s Jordan Hoyt buried a game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, another chapter of traveling travails seemingly was set for production.
But Dom Drake and the Witches did some editing of their own in the extra period, as Drake scored six of his game-high 22 points in overtime to help Brewer outlast the Cougars 68-65.
“You can’t beat this,” said Brewer coach Ben Goodwin, whose Witches are 12-2. “We’ve been in some great basketball games. We lost a tough one the other day [to Edward Little of Auburn] on a 3-point shot, so it’s nice to get into overtime and win this one — especially on the road after a long trip like this against a very good team.
“It puts us in a great position getting ready for the tournament.”
Eric Berry’s layup off the overtime tip gave Mt. Blue its first lead since 2-0, but Drake answered 12 seconds later with a driving layup and Ray Bessette soon followed with a similar drive with 2:52 left in overtime to give Brewer the lead for good.
“All the stats say the team that scores first in overtime has the best chance of winning,” said Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey. “But we needed to get a stop on the next possession, and then on the possession that followed that we shot quick.”
Tyler Bessette’s two free throws gave Brewer a 63-59 lead with 1:44 left in overtime, and the Cougars got no closer than two the rest of the way — in part because of five turnovers during the extra period.
“We just had to work as a team,” said Drake, who also contributed 11 rebounds and six assists.
Ray Bessette finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Witches, while Jordan Richards added 10 points, all in the second half. Nate Carson chipped in with eight points and five rebounds, while Tyler Bessette also scored eight points.
Sophomore center Cam Sennick led Mt. Blue with 17 points, while Hoyt scored 16 and Ryan Backus added 12.
Brewer led 25-21 after a sloppy first half in which the teams combined to commit 24 turnovers, then used a quick start after intermission to seemingly take control.
Richards hit a 3-pointer from each corner and Ray Bessette also scored from long range during a 13-3 run that gave the Witches a 38-26 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
“We just needed to be patient when we executed against their zone,” said Drake. “When we rushed it, we had turnovers, but when we were patient we were able to find those gaps.”
That run forced Mt. Blue to pick up its own pace, and the Cougars were able to rally in part by crashing the offensive boards, but mostly with the long ball.
Backus hit a 27-foot 3-pointer from the right of the key at the third-quarter buzzer to draw Mt. Blue within 43-39.
Brewer then stretched its lead back to double digits (49-39) on back-to-back 3-pointers by brothers Tyler and Ray Bessette to open the fourth quarter.
But Brewer managed just six points over the next five minutes, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Backus and Blake Hart narrowed the Witches’ lead to 55-54 with 52.6 seconds left.
Drake fed Carson for a layup after a Brewer timeout to restore the Witches to a three-point edge with 37 seconds to play, but Mt. Blue got the last shot of regulation after a missed Brewer free throw.
Backus grabbed the rebound, drove down the court and fed Hoyt for the game-tying shot from the left wing.