BANGOR, Maine — This seemed destined to become another example of the parity within the top of the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball ranks as Bangor and Brunswick brought matching records to Red Barry Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
In fact, they were just two of the five teams in the division that began the evening with identical 4-1 starts to their season.
But Bangor wanted no part of that parity conversation — at least for this night — as the Rams parlayed a dominant interior offense and persistent man-to-man defense into a 52-36 victory over the Dragons at Red Barry Gymnasium.
Senior forward Rob Brookings scored a career-high 18 points and front-court mate Patrick Stewart added 13 points and 11 rebounds as Bangor scored its fifth straight victory since a season-opening overtime loss at unbeaten Hampden Academy.
Senior forward Ellis Throckmorton added eight points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field as Bangor’s starting front line accounted for 39 points and and 21 rebounds.
“We saw the size advantage we had,” said Brookings, who also had seven rebounds for coach Roger Reed’s Bangor club. “It wasn’t any set play we had, but we just pounded it down low and kept going for it because we definitely had the size on them.”
Senior guard Mitchell Black had 11 points and six steals for Brunswick, but the Dragons were limited to an 11-of-40 shooting night from the field — 27.5 percent — by Bangor’s tenacious man-to-man defense.
“I think it was pretty clear. We were unable to match their toughness defensively and on the boards and we were unable to match their discipline on offense, and those two things spell victory,” said Brunswick coach Todd Hanson. “We just couldn’t do it, and Bangor played a big part in why we couldn’t, they wouldn’t let us.”
And while Black was a perimeter pest on defense for the Dragons, he was unable to capitalize on his defensive prowess, making just three of his 10 field-goal tries.
“Their guards are tremendous, they can all shoot and they can all drive to the basket so that’s tough for us defensively because we’re more of a post team,” said Stewart. “But our guards did a good job of keeping a hand in their face, because when they get going — especially [Mitch] Black, he’s like [Christian] McCue from Hampden with how he can get hot — you’re going to be in trouble and we did a good job of limiting that.”
Bangor took the lead for good with a run of seven straight points midway through the first quarter to erase a 4-2 deficit, as Brookings made two medium-range jumpers and a free throw and Throckmorton scored after grabbing an offensive rebound.
The Rams built their lead to as much as 25-9 late in the first half on a 3-pointer by Alex Campbell and a baseline drive by Stewart, but Brunswick scored the final five points of the period on a baseline jumper by Elliot Boyd and a three-point play by Trent Anderson to close within 25-14 at the break.
Brunswick later narrowed its deficit to 34-28 on a 3-pointer by Garrett Erb with 1:40 left in the third quarter, but Bangor opened the fourth period with an 11-1 run that began with second-chance baskets by Throckmorton and Christian Corneil and also included two inside baskets by Stewart before Corneil nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to give the Rams a 49-32 cushion with 4:48 remaining in the game.
“We cut it to six, but I never saw the fire or confidence that would lead me to believe that we could get over the hump, and it was their toughness both defensively and offensively,” said Hanson. “They’re as disciplined a team as we’ll see, and they didn’t make the key mistake and the key turnover, they always got a good look.
“From an opposing coach’s point of view, it was really nice to watch them on offense because they really executed well, like a traditional Bangor team does.”