BANGOR, Maine — Much of the Bangor boys basketball team’s early success this season has been founded in its guard play.
But the Rams’ big guys came to the forefront Friday night.
Junior center Conner Adams scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and junior forward Nick Ashey came off the bench to supply pivotal frontcourt support late in the game as coach Ed Kohtala’s club defeated Brewer 56-49 at Red Barry Gymnasium.
The win was the third straight for Bangor, now 3-1 with a game at Brunswick on Saturday. Brewer dips to 2-3.
Bangor broke out to an 8-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest, but this quickly settled into a tightly contested battle that ultimately turned on the inside play of Adams and Ashey in the second half.
Adams had 13 points and seven rebounds after intermission, while Ashey contributed six rebounds and two key baskets late in the game for the Rams.
“Coach came into the locker room at halftime and told us what we needed to do, that we needed to get some post touches, and we went out and did it,” said the 6-foot-3-inch Adams. “A lot of people say we’re young and immature, but we’re coming out and showing with the games that we’ve won that we can hold our own.”
Bangor, which trailed 42-38 after three periods, outscored Brewer 10-1 over the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, initially taking the lead for good at 45-43 on back-to-back baskets by Adams midway through the period.
Brewer had its chances to retie the game, but Ashey had three key rebounds during the ensuing sequence, and after an Adams free throw with 3:00 left Ashey converted a layup off a feed from Alex Campbell that gave the Rams a 48-43 cushion.
“The only breathing room we got, and Brewer didn’t give us much, was when Nick had a string of really strong rebounds and Conner slowed down a little bit in the post and got us some easy baskets,” said Kohtala.
Freshman Matt Pushard finally answered for Brewer by driving for a three-point play to draw the Witches within two points with 2:16 left.
But with the Witches having to defend Bangor’s interior presence, Rams’ senior guard Sean Tocci took a pass from Ashey and made a 3-pointer from the right side to restore Bangor to a five-point advantage, starting a run of six unanswered points that put the game away.
“We’re growing from the inside out,” said Campbell, a junior guard who is the only player on Bangor’s roster to have started a varsity game before this season. “At first it was just guard play, but Conner is a force, he really is, and Nick definitely helps and then all of our shooters are just shooting it.”
Boyce and senior forward Matt Cosgrove each finished with eight points for Bangor, while Campbell had seven points and six assists and Tocci also scored seven points.
Pushard led Brewer with 16 points, while senior forward Ian Burgess scored 13 — 11 in the first half — and freshman guard Logan Rogerson added eight.
“(Bangor) did a good job of executing their offense and scoring in the paint when they needed it,” said Brewer coach Ben Goodwin. “Except for one 3-pointer they scored all their points in the paint in the fourth quarter. They got the shots they wanted and we didn’t get the shots we wanted.”
A 3-pointer by Boyce and a drive and a 3-pointer by Campbell gave Bangor its 8-0 lead at the outset of the contest, but Brewer quickly battled back as 3-pointers by Burgess and Pushard fueled a 12-3 surge that produced a 14-13 lead for the Witches on a baseline jumper by Rogerson with 36 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Two free throws by Liam Harrigan gave Bangor a 15-14 lead at the end of the period, and while the Rams regained a 27-22 cushion on a backdoor layup by Tocci with 2:26 left in the first half, Burgess and Brendan Newcomb each made two free throws to make it a one-point game at intermission.
Adams, who endured modest foul trouble in the first half, scored two early baskets in the third quarter as Bangor looked to focus more on its inside game. But Rogerson gave Brewer a lift with two runners from the lane and later a fullcourt drive for a basket with two seconds left in the period to give the Witches a four-point edge heading into the game’s final eight minutes.