BANGOR, Maine — It probably only happens every quarter-century or so — that Lawrence of Fairfield knocks off Bangor on its home court, or the Rams score just 22 points in a game.
But both things occurred Tuesday night.
Lawrence’s smothering defense limited Bangor to nine second-half points and 17 percent shooting from the field overall en route to a 37-22 victory in a Class A matchup of tournament contenders, just the second time the Bulldogs have won at Red Barry Gymnasium during Mike McGee’s 27-year coaching tenure — and the first time since 1987.
“You just don’t come here and do that,” said Lawrence coach Mike McGee, who returned to his alma mater as head coach beginning with the 1985-86 season, the same year Roger Reed became Bangor’s head coach. “I’d like to know the last time Bangor lost by 15 points at home.”
Lawrence (11-6) was coming off back-to-back losses last week to Hampden Academy and Mt. Blue of Farmington — with its Senior Night loss to Mt. Blue at home last Friday particularly frustrating because the defensive-minded Bulldogs yielded 65 points to the Cougars.
It was clear early on that Lawrence and Bangor combined might not approach that total in this contest, as Bangor led 9-7 after the first quarter of its Senior Night game and trailed just 14-13 at halftime despite missing all 10 of its field-goal tries during the second period.
“The biggest thing was we needed to stay as a family and work hard,” said Lawrence senior guard Emmitt Faulkner, who along with Spencer Carey led Lawrence offensively with nine points apiece as the Bulldogs swept both regular-season meetings from the Rams.
“This is definitely a big win for us. The last time we played them they beat us up with the backdoor cuts, so we had to stop that and we sagged down on their guards.”
Lawrence also battled the taller Rams to a virtual standoff on the backboards despite being without its tallest starter, 6-foot-3 Alex Leathers, sidelined with a stress fracture.
Keith Chesley, a 6-2 senior forward, had 10 rebounds to go with eight points for the Bulldogs as Bangor managed just a 29-28 edge on the boards.
“The key for us against bigger teams is to play team defense,” said Chesley. “We’ve got to rotate to the box-outs and get there first to get the rebounds and not let them have extra shots.”
Chesley had two key baskets directly after grabbing offensive rebounds to help Lawrence build up its lead midway through the second half.
First he beat the buzzer with a tip-in to give the Bulldogs a 22-17 edge at the end of the third quarter.
After Bangor’s Patrick Stewart and Carey traded baskets to open the final period, Chesley scored again off an offensive rebound to stretch the Lawrence lead to 26-19 with 5:52 remaining.
“In the offense I’m just out there to work hard and if I can get to a rebound I’ll get to it,” said Chesley.
That basket was part of a 9-0 game-clinching run that continued to feature the Lawrence defense, as Tim Dudley then blocked a shot at one end and scored a fast-break layup at the other end before Faulkner converted a steal into a three-point play to give the Bulldogs a 31-19 lead with 4:54 remaining.
Bangor’s offense managed just a 3-pointer by Stewart over the game’s final 7 minutes, 41 seconds.
Stewart led Bangor with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Alex Clark came off the bench to add seven first-half points, but the 12-5 Rams made just 8 of 47 field-goal attempts for the game.
“We didn’t play so well against Mt. Blue defensively,” said McGee. “We gave up 65 points in that game, and we talked about the fact that there were going to be four first-round casualties at the tournament and we would be one of them if we didn’t start playing defense.
“The defense was just immense tonight.”