BREWER, Maine — The Hampden Academy Broncos remain atop the Eastern Maine Class A boys basketball standings after a 67-43 victory over Brewer on Friday night, but it’s a lofty status the 15-1 Broncos are not taking for granted.
“We’re 10 points away from being 8-6 and two points away from being 16-0,” said senior center Fred Knight. “We’ve got some experienced kids and we know how to close out games, but we’ve had so many close games that we don’t let it go to our heads.”
Hampden’s final road game of the regular season was not one of those nail-biters, at least after a third period in which coach Russ Bartlett’s club made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts to take command.
“We felt like we were clicking,” said Hampden senior guard Christian McCue, who scored a game-high 24 points. “We pride ourselves — and coach Bartlett hammers on us — about taking good shots, and I think that can happen when you’re taking only good shots.”
McCue shot 9 of 15 from the field overall, including 3 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc — where collectively Hampden made 50 percent (9 of 18) of its tries.
Sophomore forward Zach Gilpin made all three of his 3-point tries en route to a 16-point night for the Broncos, who have home games left against Cony of Augusta next Tuesday and Messalonskee of Oakland next Thursday to close out the regular season.
Brewer (6-10) has games left at Skowhegan next Tuesday and at Bangor at the Bangor Auditorium next Thursday. The Witches may need a win over the rival Rams in their regular-season finale to qualify for postseason play.
Brewer held a 21-18 edge after Yuhi Sasaki made a jumper with three minutes left in the second quarter, but Hampden came out of a timeout and simply shot their way into the lead before intermission. McCue made two 3-pointers and Matt Palmer and Gilpin each added another basket from beyond the arc to propel the Broncos to a 30-25 halftime lead.
“On the timeout we talked about wanting to win those last three minutes of the half,” said Bartlett. “We wanted to get the ball inside more, but hitting those shots made them stretch their defense a little bit and then it really opened up a lot more things after that.”
Hampden put on an offensive clinic after intermission in building its lead to 53-38 by the end of the third period.
Brewer was still within 38-31 after Sasaki hit a step-back jumper from the key with 5:29 left in the third, but Knight went inside to score off an assist from Cameron Scott, and that set off an 11-2 run that gave the Broncos a 49-33 cushion on a 3-pointer by Scott with 2:34 remaining in the period.
McCue added two driving baskets to the run, while Tyler Norris contributed a steal and an assist.
“We just started moving the ball really well and getting it down low, and we hit some good shots from the outside,” said Knight, who finished with 12 points. “We’ve got some good shooters and when they get it going teams have to get out on them, and once that happens it opens up a lot of room for me and Logan [Poirier] and our other bigs to go to work down on the blocks.”
Palmer added eight points and five assists for Hampden.
“Matt’s a kid who only takes good shots, he values the basketball and he’s out leading assist man and he guards people,” said Bartlett. “What he brings us is very invaluable but very much under the radar.”
Sasaki, who along with senior classmates Matt Cuskelly, Travis Longtin and Nate Morris were playing their final home game for Brewer, led the Witches with 16 points. Cuskelly added six points and nine rebounds.