BREWER — Coming off a dramatic two-point victory at highly touted Mt. Blue of Farmington two nights earlier, the Bangor boys basketball team faced a much shorter road trip Thursday.
But it wasn’t so much the distance traveled as it was the destination that provided the challenge as the Rams held off Brewer 47-40 in the latest renewal of their cross-river rivalry.
“It’s Bangor-Brewer, and any time you get Bangor and Brewer together you know it’s going to be a tough game,” said Bangor senior forward Patrick Stewart. “Even when it’s early in the season you can throw the records out the window. It’s a rivalry game, and they were in our shorts all night. They sent us to the line and we didn’t make foul shots, so it made it a close game.”
Senior forward Ellis Throckmorton scored 11 points and Stewart added 10 points and 18 rebounds as the Rams overcame a 16-of-35 nightmare from the free-throw line to secure their fourth straight win and improve their record to 4-1.
“This is a work in progress as you can see,” said Bangor coach Roger Reed. “We’re getting contributions from a lot of kids but we don’t have anybody playing consistently well all the time.
“I know our young kids are going to have moments when they’re going to shine and then they’ll have moments when the ebb and flow is not going to be there for them, and we’ve told them that they’re just going to have to play through it and get out the other side. It was very difficult tonight.”
Brewer (1-4) took a 35-33 lead on a 3-pointer by Mike Ogbanna with 6:03 left in the game, but Bangor worked the ball inside to score the next 11 points to regain control.
After Rob Brookings made 1 of 2 from the line to make it a one-point game, two free throws by Stewart, a fast-break layup by John Szewczyk and an inside basket by Brookings gave the Rams a 40-35 cushion and prompted a Brewer timeout with four minutes left.
Two more low-post baskets by Brookings, one on an assist from Stewart and the other on a feed from Szewczyk, extended the Bangor lead to 44-35 with 1:39 remaining.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity, and the kids put forth a great effort,” said Brewer coach Ben Goodwin. “We talk a lot about doing the little things, and tonight we gave up some offensive rebounds and some second shots, and those are the little things that add up against a Bangor team that’s so good and doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Brookings finished with nine points, six rebounds and four blocked shots and Szewczyk added eight points for Bangor, which was without three rotational players in Nick Sherwood, Zach Campbell and Xavier Lewis for the second straight game due to disciplinary reasons.
Yuhi Sasaki and Jeff Weeks each scored eight points to lead Brewer, which rallied from a 17-7 second-quarter deficit to take a 19-18 halftime lead on a Weeks 3-pointer from the right corner with 29 seconds remaining.
Bangor might have extended its early lead but made just 2 of its last 11 free-throw tries before intermission.
Zach Violette made a jumper from the key to give Brewer a 21-18 lead a minute into the second half, but Stewart and Throckmorton began working effectively inside to lead Bangor on an 11-0 run good for a 29-21 lead when Brookings fed Throckmorton for a low-post basket with 3:03 left in the third period.
But again Brewer crept back, using aggressive fullcourt defensive pressure to force Bangor turnovers and capitalizing offensively via perimeter shooting and their persistence in generating second-chance opportunities.
A 3-pointer by Weeks and a buzzer-beating follow-up shot by Ian Burgess rallied the Witches within 33-29 at the end of the third quarter, and another offensive rebound and basket by Burgess and a free throw by Sasaki made it a one-point contest and set the stage for Ogbanna’s go-ahead 3-pointer.
But the run didn’t last, as Bangor went back inside with dual benefits. The Rams were able to generate high-percentage opportunities for Brookings, who scored seven points in the fourth period, and they also induced three Brewer players — Sasaki, Ogbonna and Burgess — to foul out in the game’s final five minutes.
“We started getting the ball to our big guys at the end, to Ellis and Rob down low,” said Stewart. “Brewer’s big guys got into foul trouble so we just pounded it inside and they made some plays.