BANGOR, Maine — The Sumner of East Sullivan boys basketball team cast a refreshing aura on the 2011 Eastern Maine Class C tournament, entertaining its fans with an up-tempo approach that led to the program’s first postseason victories at the Bangor Auditorium since 1999 and a berth in the regional final.
The Tigers are now a year older and more experienced — and they’re back near the top of the standings with a 10-1 record after Tuesday night’s 64-37 victory over Class D Bangor Christian at Johnston Gymnasium on the campus of Eastern Maine Community College.
“Last year we peaked at tourney time and that’s what we’re shooting for,” said Sumner senior point guard Gabe O’Brien, who had a game-high 17 points and five assists against the Patriots. “There’s been games when we’ve come out and been really terrible. We’ve just to got to maintain a high level of basketball, be more consistent, and I think we’re getting there.”
All but two players have returned from last year’s roster, including the frontcourt tandem of Tylor Martin, Xavier Tracey, Dillan Harmon and Justin Chipman, who combined for 36 points against Bangor Christian and led Sumner to a 40-27 rebounding advantage during the contest.
That dominance of the backboards was personified by the game’s very first possession, when Sumner won the opening tip and had five offensive rebounds and six field-goal tries before Bangor Christian finally gained control of the ball.
The Tigers came up scoreless during that 1 minute, 34-second possession, and they were unable to take full command of the contest early despite holding Bangor Christian scoreless until Jeremy Miller converted a drive to the basket with just four seconds left in the first quarter.
“It was frustrating,” said Sumner coach Walter Crabtree. “Fortunately for us Bangor Christian was struggling offensively, but not because we did a good job on defense. They had some shots, they just couldn’t get them to go down.
“At that point you were watching two pretty good basketball teams playing ugly.”
The Patriots were able to slow down the Sumner transition game for most of the half, and were within 9-6 after freshman Seth Pearson made two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound with 7:11 left in the second quarter.
Sumner stretched its lead out to 22-10 at intermission, then got its fast break going at the outset of the second half. O’Brien first made two jumpers, then he dished out assists that led to a fast-break layup by Tracey and a 3-pointer from the left baseline by Chipman to account for a 9-0 run that gave the Tigers a 31-10 cushion two minutes into the third quarter.
“We came out a little sluggish and weren’t making shots that we normally hit, but we went in at halftime and mentally prepared ourselves for the second half and came out strong,” said Harmon.
Bangor Christian tried to hang around as senior point guard Bradley Wilcox scored three baskets and fed Pearson for a 3-pointer and Matt Swanson for an inside hoop to help the Patriots draw within 42-27 late in the period.
But Martin closed out the quarter with a 3-pointer for Sumner, and Bangor Christian got no closer than 18 points the rest of the way.
Martin finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Tigers, while Chipman added eight points and seven rebounds, Tracey had eight points and four boards and Harmon had five points and eight rebounds.
“We’re happy with our record, we’re very happy about that because we had five games in eight days to start the season,” said Crabtree, whose team is now idle until hosting undefeated Class D power Jonesport-Beals next Monday.
“But we’re not happy with the way we’re playing, not to get to the level we want to be at. We just don’t have that level of consistency yet that we need to be able to compete with the top people in Class C.”
Jeremy Miller led Bangor Christian with 11 points, while Pearson had seven points and eight rebounds and Wilcox had six points and six assists.