ROCKPORT — The undefeated Camden Hills boys basketball team is at times a victim of its own success, largely because the expectations the state’s high school hoops community has for the Windjammers are exceeded only by the expectations the players and coaches have for themselves.
So while most teams would savor a 20-point victory over an opponent that entered the game with a winning record, coach Jeff Hart’s club was left to lament its collective lack of energy after Thursday night’s 69-49 victory over Lincoln Academy of Newcastle.
“I’d say our energy level wasn’t quite up to where it needs to be,” said Camden Hills senior forward Keegan Pieri, who nevertheless scored a game-high 26 points. “I don’t know if it was midterm week that did it or not, but if some guys aren’t playing with that energy it definitely rubs off. Moving forward we’ve just got to make sure we pick it up for every game.”
The two-time defending Eastern B champions improved their record to 12-0 while staying atop the division’s Heal point rankings. Lincoln Academy, which competes in Western B, falls to 6-6.
Pieri scored 18 of his points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and a 4-of-4 effort from the free-throw line, as Lincoln Academy was unable to match Camden Hills’ two big men, Pieri and his 6-6 classmate, All-Maine forward Tyler McFarland, who finished the night with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
“Keegan probably brought the most energy to the team tonight,” said McFarland. “At 6-6, 200 pounds he has a lot to offer. We were trying to put the ball inside and he really helped us do that. He had good positioning when he was posting up and he got some offensive rebounds to keep some plays alive and you can’t really ask for much more than that.”
But the upset-minded Eagles did have the athleticism and quickness to cope with the Windjammers’ defensive pressure early in the game while hanging within 29-21 at intermission.
“Final exam week, that’s the way I always think of it,” said Hart. “Maybe it’s everybody, but it seems like my teams always struggle at the end of final exam week. Everything was out of rhythm, we’re playing on a Thursday night and we haven’t played in a week. You think you’re keeping them in focus with good, solid practices, and then we came out and weren’t ready to go and Lincoln Academy was.”
Lincoln Academy got as close as 31-26 early in the second half on a leaner from the lane by Jalen Lincoln and a 3-pointer by Stephen Quinlan. Then McFarland began to assert himself, scoring 11 points and grabbing four rebounds to complement nine turnovers forced by the Camden Hills defense as the Windjammers pushed their lead back to 46-33 by the end of the third period.
“We came in at halftime and established that we weren’t playing with enough energy, and we already knew that,” said McFarland, the Camden Hills captain. “Instead of just beating it into the kids that we didn’t have enough energy by yelling at them, I decided I was going to come out and do it on the court and try to get us fired up that way.”
Camden Hills then put the game away with a 12-3 run early in the fourth quarter, with McFarland scoring twice, Adam Carlsen hitting a jumper and Pieri scoring on the inside before Nathan Catell hit the first of his two 3-pointers in the final period to give the Windjammers a 58-38 lead with four minutes remaining.
Pieri added seven rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals to his scoring performance.
“I realize that there’s so many games left being that this is my senior year,” said Pieri. “so I’m just trying to make the best of every single game.”
Brandon Reilly, a 6-3 senior forward, led Lincoln Academy with 12 points while Lincoln, a 6-0 junior, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.