HAMPDEN, Maine — The Hampden Academy boys basketball team was off to a sluggish shooting start in its latest rivalry game against Bangor on Friday night.
Enter the Broncos’ not-so-secret weapon — sixth man Brian Fickett.
The senior forward came off the bench midway through the first half and made the first six shots he took en route to 12 first-half points that propelled Hampden to a 58-39 victory.
“I just wanted to do the same thing I try to do every night,” said Fickett. “The sixth man is supposed to come in off the bench and bring a lot of energy.”
The Broncos’ second win of the season over Bangor improved their record to 11-0 and left coach Russ Bartlett’s club not only atop the Eastern Maine Class A standings but as the lone remaining unbeaten Class A boys’ team statewide after Thornton Academy of Saco knocked off previously unbeaten Portland 64-52 on Friday.
“To Hampden’s credit, they’re a tremendous team and to beat them you’ve got to play for the full 32 minutes and then they’ve probably got to help you a little bit,” said Bangor coach Ed Kohtala, whose team fell to 8-4.
Hampden made just 2 of its first 13 field goal attempts before Bartlett inserted Fickett into the lineup with Bangor holding an 8-6 lead late in the first quarter.
Fickett worked his way inside the Bangor defense for three consecutive close-range baskets, the first off an assist from Nick Gilpin and the other two after entry passes into the lane by Matt Palmer for a personal 6-0 run that ultimately gave the Broncos the lead for good.
“Brian came in and settled us offensively,” said Bartlett. “He likes to play a little closer to the basket with his back to the basket. He’s a little more physical at times and I thought the physicalness of his game was great tonight.”
Bangor center Conner Adams scored with 20 seconds left in the opening period to pull the Rams within 12-10, but Hampden extended its run to 18-4 by outscoring Bangor 12-2 during the first 3:40 of the second quarter.
Fickett contributed six more points to the surge with a 15-foot jumper, a drive through the lane and another layup as the Broncos stretched their lead to 24-12 on a baseline jumper by Zach Gilpin with 4:28 left in the first half.
“It’s so nice to have Brian on our team because he would start on probably any other team in the state,” said Gilpin. “He brings so much energy off the bench and I’m so glad he’s on our team. In that first half I felt like he dominated at both ends of the floor in all three aspects — offense, defense and rebounding. He was a big spark for us off the bench.”
Bangor tried to rally from a 28-15 halftime deficit via the 3-point route, with back-to-back long range shots by Alex Campbell and Ben Hughes narrowing the deficit to 33-25 midway through the third quarter.
The Rams got as close as 40-33 on a long 3-pointer by Liam Harrigan moments later but were unable to sustain an extended run against a Hampden defense that forced 17 turnovers and allowed Bangor just 11 field goals on 29 percent shooting from the field.
And with Zach Gilpin scoring 14 of his game-high 20 points after intermission a comeback wasn’t in the offing for the Rams.
“I thought Brian carried us offensively in the first half and then Zach put us on his shoulders in the third quarter, which he’s done many times,” said Bartlett. “We made sure he got touches, and he was much more assertive.”
Gilpin, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, also pulled down seven rebounds, while Fickett finished with 14 points and point guard Cam Scott had nine points and six rebounds for Hampden. Palmer dished out a team-high five assists for the Broncos.
Senior guard Sean Tocci led Bangor with 16 points, including three of the Rams’ seven 3-pointers and a 7-of-7 effort from the free-throw line. Campbell, a junior guard, added nine points, six rebounds and six assists.
“Games like this are great for us, a great crowd and great atmosphere,” said Kohtala. “But there were some times when our inexperience showed. We got caught up in the moment and took some long 3’s that we probably should have passed inside and then we probably forced it inside when we should have taken some 3’s. But you learn from those things.”