BANGOR, Maine — Brendan Newcomb was almost desperate for a victory Friday night.
The senior guard from Brewer High School had lost all seven of his previous varsity basketball meetings with cross-river rival Bangor, and this was his last chance.
Their meeting at the Cross Insurance Center was also Brewer’s final game of the season, with the youthful Witches not headed for postseason play.
So Newcomb and his teammates made the most of the opportunity, scoring a stunning 68-53 victory to end the tourney-bound Rams’ eight-game winning streak.
“I told the guys in the locker room, I’m 0-7 against Bangor and I want to finish my high school career with this one victory, that’s all I want,” said Newcomb. “All the guys have played hard no matter what, nobody’s quit all season and this is a great way to finish.”
Newcomb, who has played all season with a torn lateral meniscus that will require surgery on Valentine’s Day, scored a game-high 30 points as coach Clayton Blood’s club went 2-0 during its final week of the regular season to cap off a 5-13 season.
“When you start out getting blown out in a few games you really need to work on getting better but you also need to work on character and attitude and demeanor on the floor as well by the players,” said Brewer coach Clayton Blood. “This was the culmination of that. We got better throughout the whole year and this was our last game but honestly it didn’t matter who it was against. We needed to show that we’ve improved and we have integrity and we’re great young individuals.
“Obviously you can’t take the Bangor-Brewer out of this, and that was big for our kids.”
Bangor ends its regular season ranked third in Eastern Maine Class A with a 13-5 record, but perhaps better news for coach Ed Kohtala’s club in the long run was learning that senior center Connor Adams’ knee injury suffered during Tuesday night’s win over Lawrence of Fairfield was not a torn ACL as initially indicated, but a sprain that leaves open the possibility of his return for postseason play.
Adams’ absence was noticeable against the Witches, who outrebounded Bangor 33-25 behind 14 points, 12 rebounds and four assists from sophomore Matt Pushard.
“We had a hard time keeping them off the boards, and we needed some guys to pick up that rebounding slack,” said Kohtala. “That was a huge key to the game and to Brewer’s credit they took advantage of that and we didn’t respond as well as we needed to.”
Brewer held a 29-26 halftime lead before Newcomb broke loose for 12 third-quarter points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, including two of his four 3-pointers on the night.
“When I was shooting around I felt good. I was pulling from pretty deep and hitting nothing but net so I felt to myself that this should be a pretty good game,” said Newcomb. “In that third quarter I started testing it more off the dribble, hitting some pull-ups and it felt really good.”
Bangor hung within 44-41 thanks to eight points from senior guard Xavier Lewis, but Newcomb ended the quarter with a 1-on-1 3-pointer from the key and scored from the baseline to open the final period before Pushard followed with a 3-pointer to stretch the Brewer cushion to 52-41 with just over six minutes remaining.
Bangor countered with six unanswered points — four from the free-throw line and a drive by senior Nate Caruso — and the Rams had subsequent possessions to draw even closer.
But Brewer’s defense held, and finally a fullcourt, press-beating inbounding pass from Pushard to fellow sophomore Logan Rogerson (18 points) produced a momentum-killing layup that left the Witches with a 54-47 lead with 3:30 remaining.
After Lewis made 1 of 2 from the line, Brewer outscored Bangor 14-5 the of the way — making 8 of its last 9 free throws.
“We’ve had a lot of leads going into halftime against good teams, and it seems like the second half is when we’d fall apart,” said Newcomb, who also grabbed eight rebounds. “We went into halftime of this game and kept stressing holding onto the basketball, not letting them run on us and to keep playing our game.”
Lewis finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Bangor, while backcourt mate Alex Campbell scored 14 points.