BANGOR, Maine — The Caribou boys basketball team has been known for its deliberative nature in recent years, but the Vikings tried out a slightly more urgent pace in their season opener Saturday with great results.
Coach Chris Casavant’s club combined balanced offense with a dominant rebounding and defensive performance to surge past John Bapst of Bangor 65-41 in a Big East Conference clash at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Vikings controlled the backboards, scoring 15 early points directly after grabbing offensive rebounds en route to a 33-16 halftime lead, and also used their quickness on the defensive glass to set periodic fast breaks in motion.
And when that wasn’t enough, Caribou cranked up its defense, using pressure tactics to control the pace of the game and eventually take full command when sophomore point guard Dayne Savage stole the ball twice and scored seven points in the first 90 seconds of the third period to fuel an 11-0 run that extended the Vikings’ lead to 44-16.
“This is something new where we try to play a little more up tempo and try to shoot a little quicker than we normally do,” said Casavant, whose starting lineup did not include a senior.
“So it was really important for us to have success today because these kids know now that this can work. It wasn’t 100 percent perfect, and it never is. There were things we can do better, but there were things we did a nice job with tonight.”
Derek Richardson led a balanced Caribou attack with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Matt Milliard had 15 points, Savage scored 14 points, Cody Herbert had six points and 11 rebounds and Kameron Manter had six points and eight boards.
“We try to get to the [rebound] before it hits the ground,” said Richardson. “We’re not the biggest or strongest team but form is better than muscle, I think.”
John Bapst hung within 9-7 late in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by guard Colby Kohn, but a fast-break layup by Milliard and a follow-up basket by Richardson gave Caribou a 13-7 cushion at the end of the period and marked the start of a 16-2 run by the Vikings.
That surge featured everything from a second-chance basket and mid-range jumper from Milliard to a layup and 3-pointer by Savage as Caribou extended its lead to 25-9 before John Bapst finally countered with a modest five-point run.
But it was a momentary lapse for Caribou, which then outscored the Crusaders 8-2 over the final 2:41 of the half, with Savage assisting on two jumpers by Milliard and converting a transition layup to go with another basket by Richardson after an offensive rebound.
Savage, a second-team All-Big East selection as a freshman, then ensured there would be no second-half comeback by John Bapst, taking over the game defensively at the outset of the third quarter.
He stole the ball near the halfcourt line just after the play began in the third period and made two free throws after being fouled while driving to the basket.
Milliard scored after another John Bapst turnover, then Savage stole the ball and fed Herbert for a layup.
Savage’s defense persistence subsequently spawned an intentional foul against him — a turn of events he turned into five quick points, two free throws and then a 3-pointer off the subsequent inbounding pass from Manter.
“We didn’t want to play like we were up by 17, we wanted to come back out after halftime and play like it was a 0-0 game and go from there,” said Savage.
Indeed, barely a minute had elapsed and Caribou had scored 11 consecutive points to stretch its lead to 44-16.
“Dayne knows he needs to be the leader and the other guys look for him to be the leader,” said Casavant. “The great thing about Dayne is that he knows he doesn’t have to shoot it every time down the floor because he has confidence in everybody else, and I think that showed tonight.
“We got contributions from everybody.”
Sam Brown, a transfer from Lee Academy, came off the bench to lead John Bapst with a game-high 18 points, while teammate Andrew Gatchell scored nine points.