GRAY — Gray-New Gloucester has been at its best this season when it has been able to lure its opponents into a trap. For Tuesday night’s Western Class B preliminary, the Patriots encountered the perfect foe to ambush.
No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester’s half-court trapping defense forced 28 turnovers and Adam Jensen poured in 28 points in a 61-36 thumping of No. 9 Maranacook before a standing-room-only crowd. With the win, the Patriots advance to the quarterfinals at the Portland Expo to meet top-seeded Greely (Saturday, 4:45 p.m.).
The Patriots (11-8) never trailed the young Black Bears, who turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter, when Jensen outscored them all by himself, 11-8.
Maranacook’s 6-f00t-6 sophomore center, Kyle Boucher, finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but G-NG’s trap kept the Bears from being able to make easy entry passes inside and forced plenty of turnovers to get the Patriots into the transition offense they prefer.
“We wanted to make sure they couldn’t get the ball into their big guy, and I think our pressure defense took them out of that,” Patriots coach Tony DiBiase said. “We got off to a real good start. I was really happy to see that.”
“We wanted to make the game fast,” he added. “Sometimes when the game gets really fast, kids make turnovers and they make bad passes. We got a lot of easy baskets off the transition.”
The Patriots put the pedal to the medal and got Jensen involved early. The senior’s 3-pointer made it 15-4 with 1:51 left in the first quarter.
After a Boucher basket, Heath Martell (12 points, five rebounds) rebounded a rare Jensen miss and put it back in to make it 17-6.
The Black Bears (10-9) allowed Sam Johnson to make the double-digit lead permanent when they fouled him while trying to beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer from the right corner. The freshman guard sank all three free throws for a 20-8 Patriot lead at the end of the quarter.
“It’s kind of been our MO for the year. We dig ourselves in (a hole) and against good teams, you just can’t climb out, especially when injuries and other factors have taken guys out of the game,” Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt said.
Jensen spent the second quarter getting his teammates involved. The Patriots’ first two baskets of the second quarter came when he found Nick Bennett open in the right corner, and the senior point guard knocked down both 3-pointers to make it 26-12.
“(Jensen) has gotten much better at doing that, understanding that teams are going to concentrate on trying to stop him,” DiBiase said. “He’s keeping his head up and finding the open guys. I thought that kind of opened the game up when Nick knocked those shots down.”
Ryan Cavallaro’s three-point play off a Martell block helped G-NG inflate the lead to 32-14 by halftime. The Patriots quickly widened the margin in the second half as Maranacook’s turnover woes continued, giving the ball away on three of its first four possessions. That got Jensen going in transition again, and the 6-foot-4 swingman’s turnaround jumper put the Patriots up 20.
“I thought they played very good defense, but we were foolish enough to go into the corners and allow ourselves to be trapped by them. Once that happened, we were in big trouble,” Schmidt said. “We turned the ball over way too many times tonight, and it led to a lot of fast break opportunities for them.”
The Patriots return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009, when they were eliminated by top-seeded Greely. This season, they have faced the Rangers (16-2) twice, losing 51-39 at home last month and 91-42 in Cumberland on Feb. 8.
“It’s great for the program. It’s great for these kids,” DiBiase said. “Obviously, we’ve got quite a challenge ahead of us. We played them tough here, but they took care of us pretty easily at Greely. We’re not just happy to go there, and that’s one of the things that we’ve got to talk about in the next three days. We’re going there to win.”
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