HAMPDEN — If opening night is any indication, the parity that’s been projected in the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball world this season looks for real.
Christian McCue scored 28 points — including all nine of his team’s points in overtime — as Hampden Academy outlasted rival Bangor 56-48 before a full house Friday evening.
McCue opened the extra period with his fourth 3-pointer of the game to give the Broncos a 50-47 lead, then made six consecutive free throws over the final 35.2 seconds as Hampden defeated Bangor in their mutual season opener for the fourth consecutive year.
“It felt like a playoff game, to be honest,” said McCue, a senior guard. “We had to grind it out, and hopefully that’s just a sign of things to come. This game was fun, but really we want to beat them in the second to the last game (the Eastern A final).”
Bangor ran several different defenders at McCue trying to wear him down and were fairly successful at limiting his 3-point attempts, but McCue used a lightning-quick release to make four of the five long-distance shots he did take.
“I thought Christian’s footwork was really important in getting him into his catch and his shot,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett. “Obviously people guard him really hard, and he’s got to be very sharp and fundamentally sound to get those shots off. I thought we got him some good touches in the second half off some stagger screens, which were good plays for us.”
McCue also made Bangor pay when the Rams were overaggressive defensively against him, making 12 of 13 free-throw tries.
“It was really tough,” said McCue, who also had five assists and two steals. “It felt like a lot of holding and grabbing both ways out there, but that’s the way I like it.”
Sophomore Zac Gilpin added 13 points for Hampden, including a 3-of-6 shooting effort from 3-point land, while 6-foot-7 center Fred Knight scored nine points and 6-6 senior forward Logan Poirier played a key defensive role with nine rebounds and five blocked shots while helping to limit Bangor standout Patrick Stewart to four points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field.
“He’s a quick player,” said Poirier of Stewart, the only starter back from Bangor’s 2011 state championship team. “I knew I had to defend him well. I tried to get up in his face on his 3-point shot because he has a very good shot out there, and I just tried to stay low when he drove with the ball.”
Bangor, which trailed 40-32 after McCue hit a baseline jumper 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, used 3-pointers by John Szewczyk, Zach Campbell and Alex Clark to rally and force the extra period — with Szewczyk banking in a shot from beyond the top of the key with 2:55 left to give the Rams a 47-45 lead before Knight scored an inside basket 24 seconds later for the final points of regulation.
Both teams had a possession in the final 20 seconds of the fourth quarter, but Hampden’s Brian Fickett missed a late 3-point try after Bangor turned it over on a palming violation along the baseline with 11.9 seconds left.
“We’ve got to learn how to win these games in the end,” said Bangor coach Roger Reed. “We can’t turn the ball over at critical points of the game, because we had a chance to win. We had a lot of opportunities to score inside because we didn’t take it strong enough.”
Campbell finished with a team-high 14 points for Bangor while also grabbing seven rebounds.
“I think Zach Campbell played really well tonight,” said Bartlett. “He played like a kid who has been waiting his turn and stepped up and played great for them offensively tonight.”
Nick Sherwood added eight points for Bangor, while Stewart pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
“They’re a good team,” said Reed, “but we played really hard. I don’t think we executed very well, and the reason for that is some of these kids just haven’t had time enough on the floor. We’ll get better every practice and every game, but the games are going to be like this for us every single night out.”