BANGOR, Maine — Connor Adams is at times a reluctant offensive warrior for the Bangor boys basketball team, preferring instead to catch the ball inside and then pass it back out to teammates in the Rams’ perimeter-oriented attack.
But when Mount Ararat of Topsham opted to focus defensively on guards Alex Campbell and Xavier Lewis on Friday night, the 6-foot-3-inch senior center made the Eagles pay — albeit at coach Ed Kohtala’s urging — as Bangor pulled away to a 64-45 victory.
Adams finished with team-high totals of 21 points and 10 rebounds to help Bangor score its seventh consecutive victory and improve its record to 12-4 with a week left in its regular-season pursuit of a top-three finish in Eastern Maine Class A.
“After AC and X got heated up a little bit, more people had to focus on them and it gave me more time to go one-on one in the post,” said Adams. “And it helps when coach tells you to shoot it.”
Adams scored 19 points over the final three periods after the teams had struggled to a 7-7 stalemate through the end of the opening quarter.
“Early on we got a little frustrated with him,” said Kohtala. “We had gotten him some good looks inside because in timeouts we were saying we had to get Connor a touch. He got it and kicked it out for a couple of threes, which was wonderful, but we don’t really need him to lead us in assists. I thought the game really turned and our cushion came when he went to work inside.”
Adams and Lewis combined for 10 second-quarter points to go with 3-pointers by Andrew Hillier and Trey Kenny as Bangor moved out to a 28-20 halftime lead. Then Hillier struck for two more 3-pointers among his eight third-quarter points to go with seven points apiece from Lewis and Hillier as the Rams extended their cushion to 50-32 entering the final period.
Mount Ararat (7-9) closed within 52-38 with five minutes left when sophomore standout Shyheim Ulrickson hit a floater and then split the Bangor defense with a 50-foot bounce pass to set up a Jake Demosthenes layup.
But the Eagles then missed two free throws in a bid to cut the deficit to 12 and came up empty on their ensuing possession before Kenny made two free throws and Adams hit four straight from the line to fuel a 10-2 Bangor run that pushed the lead to 62-40.
Lewis finished with 16 points for the Rams while Hillier came off the bench to contribute 11 and Campbell added nine.
“Our guys are unselfish, and tonight [Mount Ararat] decided to face-guard Alex Campbell, which made for a long night for Alex but created space for other people,” said Kohtala. “Andrew Hillier was starting and shooting real well on the JVs, and then we had an injury [Garrett Johnson’s broken right hand] and now he’s being asked to make those same shots on the varsity.”
Ulrickson, the Mount Ararat point guard who scored 44 points in the Eagles’ recent win over Edward Little of Auburn, finished with a game-high 23 points but shot just 6-of-21 from the field as he was blanketed by a Bangor defensive effort led by Lewis.
“That tells me how good he is,” said Kohtala of Ulrickson’s offensive output, “because he was the focal point of our defense. One thing we talk about when facing good players is that when we’re in our man defense to make sure he can see all five of us, and I thought we did a good job of that.
“He still got very close to his average but he worked for them and some of those were earned at the foul line (8 for 8). It’s hard to say it when a kid gets 23 points, but we were pleased. We were pleased he didn’t get 44.”
Mason Griffin added nine points for Mount Ararat.