EASTON, Maine — The Easton Bears are one of just three undefeated boys basketball teams in Eastern Maine this winter.
Their defense is a big reason why.
Easton limited Central Aroostook of Mars Hill to just 12 field goals Thursday night while improving its record to 16-0 with a 48-32 victory over the rival Panthers before a full house at the Barn.
“Defensively it was probably our best game in a while,” said third-year Easton coach Dillon Kingsbury, whose Bears are off to their best start in generations after advancing to the Eastern Maine Class D semifinals last winter.
“The last couple of games we were giving up 54 or 55 points and I wasn’t really pleased. But today we switched up defenses and put together a really good game plan defensively, and we executed it really well.”
Central Aroostook’s offense also was diminished by the lack of full-time play by its leader, junior guard Chandler Brewer.
His minutes were limited by his coach and father, Tim Brewer, as the younger Brewer copes with tendinitis in both knees. Central Aroostook faces another game Friday night against Fort Kent.
“Chandler’s a phenomenal player, one of the best players in Aroostook County when he’s healthy,” said Kingsbury. “You can tell when he’s hurting, that he’s not the same, and they’re not the same team.”
Easton’s offense, meanwhile, featured some crisp interior passing that enabled the Bears to shoot 56 percent (14 of 25) during the first half as they built a 31-13 lead. Five different players had at least four points during the opening two quarters, led by freshman Jake Flewelling who came off the bench to score seven early points, all from close range.
“I thought our ball movement was pretty good,” said Kingsbury, whose team entered the contest ranked second in Eastern D. “Down there when we played them we concentrated on getting the ball inside and we didn’t look at the other players, but tonight we reversed the ball, got a foot in the paint and got for the most part layups.”
Flewelling and 6-foot-4-inch senior center Hunter Turner finished with team-high totals of nine points apiece for Easton, which attempted just two 3-point shots. Cody Halvorson added eight points and Logan Halvorson seven for the Bears.
Turner also pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, while teammate Drew Sotomayor grabbed seven boards.
Junior guard Zack McClung led a youthful Central Aroostook team — the Panthers have just one senior back from last year’s regional championship squad — with 12 points and six rebounds.
Brewer managed 10 points and senior Spencer Garrison grabbed nine rebounds for Central Aroostook, now 6-9 and ranked 10th in Eastern D.
Easton spotted Central Aroostook a 3-2 lead on a Brewer 3-pointer midway through the first quarter, then scored 15 unanswered points to take control.
Six different players scored for the Bears in the opening eight minutes, with Turner contributing five points and five rebounds as Easton used its motion offense to work the ball into the lane while defensively limiting Central Aroostook to a 1-of-12 shooting effort.
A left-handed drive by Nick Clark 22 seconds into the second quarter extended the Easton lead to 17-3 before Central Aroostook ended a five-minute scoring drought when Brewer scored from the low post.
The Panthers got within 21-10 on a jumper by McClung with 4:59 left in the half, but Easton went on to outscore Central Aroostook 10-3 during the remainder of the period.