GUILFORD, Maine — The undefeated George Stevens Academy boys basketball team has answered every challenge so far this season.
That challenge was somewhat different Monday night with a two-hour bus ride from the Blue Hill peninsula toward the geographic center of the state without a junior varsity game preceding the varsity contest for regrouping after the trip.
It didn’t matter.
The Eagles shook off a youthful Piscataquis team unwilling to go down without a fight, using a 20-2 second-half run to break the game open en route to a 59-33 victory in a Class C North matchup.
George Stevens, 11-0 and top-ranked in the division, will host second-ranked Bucksport on Wednesday night. The Eagles defeated the Golden Bucks 62-41 in their earlier meeting on Dec. 15, 2015, at Bucksport.
Coach Dwayne Carter’s George Stevens club has an average victory margin of 22.8 points per game while limiting opponents to 42.7 points per outing.
“We wanted to limit the number of trips, and the trips that we took we wanted to lengthen them out,” said Piscataquis coach Jamie Russell. “We tried to shorten the game up as much as we could, but their athleticism took over, and we turned the ball over.
“Some of it was forced and some of it wasn’t, but their length and their shooting … they just don’t have a weakness,” he said.
Sophomore guard Taylor Schildroth finished with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with six rebounds and four assists for a George Stevens lineup that made 50 percent (24-of-48) of its attempts from the field overall.
“The team was finding open shots and really moving it so everyone was having a hot hand,” said Schildroth. “It’s all about ball movement basically, and everyone got open shots and seemed to find the rim.”
Nick Szwez, a 6-foot-5 senior who teams with 6-4 Max Mattson and 6-3 Jarrod Chase to give the Eagles a formidable front line, made six of his seven shots from the low post to amass 12 points along with five rebounds and four assists. Chase had 11 points and three steals.
“I thought we played really well as a team,” said Szwez. “The ball movement was great. I felt that within the flow of the offense there wasn’t a lot of stop-and-stuttering and pulling up and doing our own thing. We all shared the ball collectively and didn’t really care who scored the buckets as long as we got the buckets.”
George Stevens made eight of its first 11 shots to move out to a 19-4 lead by the end of the first quarter, and it maintained a 27-14 advantage at intermission.
After Szwez went inside to score the first basket of the third quarter, Piscataquis sophomore guard Cameron Kane hit a 3-pointer from the right wing and senior forward Ben Morrill used a crossover dribble to get to the rim as the Pirates drew within 29-19.
“Jamie’s teams always play well,” said Carter. “As I tell the kids, that’s the best-coached team we’ll play because he does a great job with the kids he has.”
But George Stevens answered immediately, with Mattson passing from the high post to Szwez for a layup and Schildroth then making a fast-break layup and a deep 3-pointer from the right side to spark a 20-2 run that restored the Eagles to a 49-21 cushion when Schildroth buried his third 3-pointer of the night five seconds into the fourth quarter.
Sophomore guard Bryce Gilbert led 2-9 Piscataquis with 11 points and three assists, Kane scored eight points, and Morrill finished with six points and seven rebounds.