BRUNSWICK — The biggest question running rampant throughout the Brunswick High School gymnasium prior to Friday night’s much-anticipated showdown was how good are the defending Class A champion and preseason Eastern A top dog Hampden Academy Broncos?
For Coach Todd Hanson’s Dragons, this was a benchmark game, a look into figuring out if Brunswick’s 2-0 start was for real or was going to turn out to be just another victim for the high-powered Broncos, who came in averaging 85 points in their first two contests, both easy wins over northern neighbors Brewer and Bangor.
A double-overtime Hampden win showed the packed gym representing both teams that the Dragons and Broncos are a good matchup.
The Broncos (3-0) left Brunswick with a 65-54 victory, getting 20 points and 14 rebounds from Zach Gilpin and making nine of 10 free throws in the second four-minute extra period after Hampden struggled to a five-for-12 showing at the charity stripe in regulation. And, Hampden, much to coach Russ Bartlett’s dismay, turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 20 times.
“They turned us over. Last game against Bangor we had seven turnovers, where today we had 12 turnovers at halftime, and our ball security was really poor,” said Bartlett, whose squad visits Messalonskee on Tuesday to complete a season-opening four-game road swing. “We got a little bit of separation in the second overtime and finally made our foul shots.”
“Hampden’s reputation speaks for itself, and they’re a hard enough team to beat over 32 minutes let alone over 40,” said Brunswick coach Todd Hanson, whose Dragons are 2-1 and host Lewiston on Monday. “Our guys gave it their all, but just ran out of gas in the overtime. We played seven kids, and they laid it on the line tonight.”
In a back-and-forth first quarter, the teams finished deadlocked, 11-11. Gilpin sank a free throw early in the second, but Brunswick responded with a 6-0 run, all from Dragons standout Blake Gordon, who had 10 first-half points.
“Gordon was killing us in the first half,” said Bartlett, whose Broncos trailed 27-24 at the half despite 10 points from Gilpin and eight from Isaiah Bess.
Brunswick twice stretched its advantage to five points in the third quarter, but the Dragons went cold as the Broncos warmed up. Bess scored seven points as Hampden claimed a 39-37 advantage heading to the final frame. And, Bess did the job defensively as well, limiting Gordon to just two points in the quarter.
“I thought Isaiah, with his length, did a real nice job on Gordon in the second half, getting him out of his comfort zone,” said Bartlett.
Brunswick missed 11 consecutive shots, with Gilpin’s putback giving the Broncos a 42-37 lead with 7:10 remaining in regulation.
Hanson called a timeout, and his team returned to floor, intent on turning their fortunes around.
Derek Devereaux drained a pair of quick 3-pointers off an assist each from Gordon and Brady Larson for a 43-42 lead, and Gordon found some room and hit a jumper to complete an 8-0 run over a 45-second span, forcing Bartlett to call a timeout.
“We made shots,” said Devereaux.
“We were focused on the defensive end because they have so many weapons, and every timeout we took we talked about helping on Gilpin or Bess,” said Hanson.
Devereaux connected again, scoring eight fourth-quarter points as part of 15-point performance.
“We needed to not panic, but we were getting to a point that we needed to make stops and take some quality shots,” said Bartlett.
Trailing 47-44 with 1:46 left, Cam Scott scored his first basket and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but his team was down by just one point. On Hampden’s next possession, Brunswick’s Elliot Boyd (six points, 11 rebounds, two blocked shots) fouled out and Gilpin made one of two at the line to tie the game.
Hampden had a chance to win it in regulation, but Gilpin’s shot missed the mark.
“We knew coming in here it was going to be a great game, with Brunswick being a great team,” said Gilpin. “Free throws killed us in the preseason, and we missed way too many tonight.”
In the first overtime, Larson was left alone and scored on a reverse lay-up for a 49-47 lead. Gilpin made two free throws to tie it, but Ryan Black finished off a Larson pass to restore Brunswick’s two-point lead, 51-49.
Hampden refused to fold as Matt Martin scored in the paint. Gilpin had another chance, but on his way to the basket he ran over a Brunswick defender for a foul, giving the Dragons a chance with six seconds left. Gordon had a brief look at the basket, with Bess getting a hand up at the last second to alter Gordon’s shot. Alex Bandouveres reached up and tipped the ball toward the rim, but the ball bounced away to force a second overtime.
“I took a bad shot at the end of the first overtime, something that almost came back to bite us,” said Gilpin.
The Broncos took control in the second overtime, getting a pair of free throws from Bess to begin a 6-0 run for a 57-51 lead. Gordon drained a 3-pointer with 2:10 left, but Bess answered from long distance to restore the six-point lead, and Scott made five of six at the line to close out the 65-54 Hampden win.
“We’re not happy with the loss, but we told our guys that we need to use this as a building block to get better and just keep improving,” said Hanson.
“We fought back and played well until the last overtime,” added Devereaux.
“It was a great regular-season game. Brunswick played really well, guarded us well and were real physical,” said Bartlett.
Hampden was 22 of 60 (36 percent) from the floor and finished 16 of 24 from the free-throw line. The Broncos held a 37-27 rebounding advantage. Bess had 18 points and four steals, Martin eight points and five rebounds, Brendan McIntyre eight points and five boards, and Scott seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
For Brunswick, Gordon had 16 points and four steals, and Black eight points. The Dragons shot 34 percent (23 of 66) and made four of five at the charity stripe.