ORONO, Maine — The Hermon boys basketball team may be young, but through their play so far this winter, the Hawks seemingly have been maturing by the moment.
Coach Mark Reed’s club, which began Wednesday night’s game against Orono ranked first in Class B North, used its collective quickness to score its seventh consecutive victory with a 59-51 win over the veteran Red Riots.
Hermon (9-1) will have little time to celebrate the point-worthy win as the Hawks must travel to undefeated Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor on Friday night.
The Trojans are the only team to defeat Hermon this season, earning a 59-52 win over the Hawks during their earlier meeting on Dec. 19, 2016.
“We’ve got a tough one down at MDI on Friday, they’re a very good team,” said Reed. “We played pretty well the first time except for a five-possession stretch that really cost us in the fourth [quarter]. They’re a tough group, a very confident group of veteran kids who have been through a lot of battles, so it will definitely be a good test for us.”
Hermon passed its second test of the season against Orono — the Hawks previously topped the Red Riots 70-65 on Dec. 14 — with a balanced offense and a 2-3 zone defense that sought to force the bigger, more physical Red Riots to the perimeter.
“The last few games we weren’t playing the way we’re supposed to, but Orono’s a tough team, and every time we play them, we’re ready to play,” said Hermon junior swingman Keenan Marseille, who paced the Hawks with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“We saw how big they were, but we saw how quick we are. We ran in transition, and we were ready to shoot,” he said.
Sophomore guard Garrett Trask added 14 points, including three 3-pointers during the third quarter when Hermon outscored Orono 19-11 to stretch a 27-18 halftime advantage to 46-29 entering the final period.
Junior forward Jordan Bishop contributed 11 points for the Hawks, and freshman forward Isaac Varney chipped in with eight points, six rebounds and three steals.
“I think it’s definitely a contrast where they’re bigger and stronger and we’re able to use a little more of our quickness at times to get advantages,” said Reed. “I thought that definitely showed up at times in the game.”
Orono (6-3) got a big night from senior forward Keenan Collett, who scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field. Senior guard Nate Desisto and senior forward Jackson Coutts each added 11 points for coach Jason Coleman’s Red Riots.
Hermon took the lead for good when Varney stole the ball and fed Marseille for a fast-break layup that gave the Hawks a 14-13 advantage early in the second quarter.
Marseille had 11 points and nine rebounds in the first half alone as Hermon was able to rebound effectively against Orono’s zone defense and turn that work on the glass into transition offense.
But during the third quarter, the Hawks went to the perimeter for its offense and made four 3-pointers to stretch out their lead.
Particularly accurate from long range was Trask, who made three straight 3-pointers during a 69-second stretch late in the period to increase Hermon’s cushion from 35-25 to 44-27.
That matched the Hawks’ largest lead of the game, leaving Orono to play what was to be an unsuccessful game of catch-up.
The Red Riots twice narrowed their deficit to nine points, the last time at 50-41 on Collett’s second straight basket from the lane with less than three minutes remaining.
But Hermon answered with five straight points — two free throws by Trask, a 15-footer by Marseille and a free throw by Cody Hawes — to put the game away.