HAMPDEN, Maine — The Hampden Academy boys basketball team has defeated all comers so far this season by an average of nearly 30 points per contest, yet the unbeaten Broncos are having no difficulty finding motivational sources.
Lewiston provided the opposition Friday night, not only fully aware of Hampden’s pursuit of the gold ball that just eluded the reigning Eastern Maine Class A champion last winter, but also knowing it was the only team that defeated the Broncos during the 2011-12 regular season — a fact coach Russ Bartlett’s club was reminded of throughout practice a night earlier.
“We’d been thinking about it pretty heavily,” said Hampden senior swingman Matt Palmer. “We actually practiced [Thursday] with the score 21 to 2 with 6 minutes and 27 seconds left in the second quarter on the scoreboard, which is what we were behind them by last year.”
Hampden rallied all the way back in that encounter before falling 43-40 at Lewiston, but the rematch produced no such late drama, as the Broncos surged out to a 13-2 lead and cruised to a 68-46 victory over the undermanned Blue Devils.
Palmer led the way offensively, scoring 15 of his team-high 18 points in the first half as the Broncos built a 38-21 lead. He shot 7 of 12 from the field overall and 4 of 8 beyond the 3-point arc to go with nine rebounds as he helped Hampden overcome early foul trouble that sidelined the team’s leading scorer, junior forward Zach Gilpin.
“We’ve been talking about Matt taking more twos than threes because he’s been taking a lot of threes, but tonight he was making them and with Zach on the bench early we needed someone to step up offensively and he happened to be that guy,” said Bartlett. “He’s a very capable scorer. I like it when he’s being aggressive because it makes us better, and he’s a good decision maker when he’s attacking the basket.”
Lewiston, missing two starters and one of its top reserves due to a combination of disciplinary issues and illness, rallied from Hampden’s game-opening blitz to pull within 20-18 after Adam Poliquin made the first two baskets of the second quarter for coach Tim Farrar’s club.
But the challenge merely served to rouse the 8-0 Broncos, who turned up the defense and made the extra passes on offense to close out the first half with an 18-3 run — including two 3-pointers and a jumper from the top of the key by Palmer — good for a 17-point advantage at the break.
“They know that if they make two passes they’re going to get an open shot,” said Bartlett. “Some teams can make the one pass, but it’s very few teams that will make two passes and we make two and that’s why we get open shots. Everyone’s grasped that idea and everyone’s unselfish about it, so we make sure we make the two passes.”
Hampden’s mid-game dominance grew to a 34-7 run midway through the third quarter as Gilpin returned from his foul-induced hiatus with seven quick points and senior forward Tyler Norris followed with a right-handed drive through the lane and then a left-handed version of the same play to give the Broncos their largest lead at 54-25 with 3:16 left in the period.
While Hampden showing off its offensive efficiency, Lewiston managed just three field goals during an 11-minute, 26-second span of game time.
“With our foot speed with Zach at the four and Tyler at the five, we’re usually quicker than almost everybody else at almost every position,” said Bartlett. “[Junior guard] Cam [Scott] can almost eliminate the best perimeter player and then Matt and Nick [Gilpin] both anticipate well.”
Zach Gilpin finished with 14 points and Norris 12, while Nick Gilpin, a freshman guard, scored nine points and Scott added six points, four steals and four assists.
Sophomore forward Quintarian Brown led Lewiston with nine points, while sophomore Isaiah Harris added eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.