BANGOR, Maine — The sense of urgency that accompanies the late-season battle for playoff position was in full evidence at Red Barry Gymnasium on Friday night.
No matter that Bangor and Lewiston have six and five games remaining, respectively, on their regular-season schedules.
Bangor’s 67-58 Class A survival of Lewiston may not have been war, but the frenzied nature of the battle came close to matching anything tourney time has to offer.
“There were literally multiple guys who left that game with black eyes or something, you can go through the teams and see it,” said Bangor senior guard Xavier Lewis, “especially toward the end when they picked up the pressure and the tempo picked up. I like that.”
Lewis scored a game-high 22 points — making three 3-pointers and all nine of his free-throw tries — and backcourt mate Alex Campbell added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Rams secured their third straight victory and improved their record to 8-4. Senior center Connor Adams added 13 points for Bangor.
Junior guard Quintarian Brown paced 5-8 Lewiston with 19 points — all in the second half to help the Blue Devils rally from a 20-point first-half deficit.
Reserve guard Ace Curry added 12 points — 11 in the second half — while junior center Isaiah Harris had 11 points and 12 rebounds and 6-foot-6-inch Carlos Gonzalez scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“They’re an athletic team and they don’t go away,” said Lewis. “You have to make them go away. Luckily we put down some free throws and that really put it away.”
Bangor, which defeated Lewiston by 29 points in their season opener more than a month ago, threatened to blow out the Blue Devils again in the rematch.
The Rams shot 6-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half — including two from reserve forward Trey Kenny midway through the second quarter to help his team build a 28-8 lead.
Lewiston, meanwhile, had early difficulty generating any early offense — the Bangor lead was 28-14 at intermission with the Blue Devils having more turnovers (15) than points.
“It was a disaster,” said Lewiston coach Tim Farrar. “But to be honest it’s the best we’ve ever done in the first half when we’ve come up here. We felt like we were kind of in the game.”
Lewiston focused on working the ball into the lane after intermission, and no one was more successful at that than Brown, who made five close-range shots during an 11-point third quarter.
But Lewiston could cut just two points off Bangor’s lead as the Rams maintained a 45-33 lead entering the final period.
The Blue Devils then increased their defensive pressure, and it paid off with several Bangor turnovers that Lewiston used as the catalyst for a 9-0 run that closed the gap to 56-49 on a steal and drive by Brown with 3:20 remaining.
The Blue Devils twice narrowed the gap to five, the second time on a Brown jumper with 2:15 left.
But Adams made 1 of 2 from the free-throw line, then Campbell — scoreless to that point of the second half — took a pass from Lewis after his offensive rebound and made a floater from the lane as he was being fouled that became a three-point play.
“When you get it to five you just have to stay between the ball and the man a little bit [defensively], but we got a little frenetic and Xavier and Alex made some big plays,” said Farrar. “That three-point play by Campbell was huge.”
Campbell’s free throw restored Bangor to a 62-53 cushion with 1:57 left, and the Rams made 6 of 9 free throws the rest of the way to maintain their lead.
“I thought the first-half tempo was pretty much to our liking, the pressure they did show we handled pretty well,” said Bangor coach Ed Kohtala. “Typically when the pace picks up it’s treated us well, but we had just enough turnovers and missed just enough easy ones and they have talented players and got a run going and played with confidence.
“The atmosphere got a little crazy, but to our guys’ credit they made enough basketball plays at the end to get us a win.”