BANGOR, Maine — After back-to-back trips to Portland and Augusta last weekend, the Bangor boys basketball team was in need of a home game.
And any energy that may have been lacking late in those road losses at Cheverus of Portland on Friday afternoon and against Deering of Portland just 24 hours later at the Augusta Civic Center was on full display Tuesday night. Coach Carl Parker’s club used a fourth-quarter surge to pull away from Oxford Hills of South Paris 56-46 in a Class AA matchup at Red Barry Gymnasium.
Junior guard Damien Vance led the 4-3 Rams offensively with a game-high 25 points, including 7-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line during a fourth quarter that began with the teams locked in a 34-34 stalemate.
Junior guard Noah Missbrenner added 14 points for Bangor while junior forward Matt Fleming — playing his first game against his former teammates since transferring from Oxford Hills to Bangor last summer — scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds.
Junior forward Colton Carson paced 2-4 Oxford Hills with 13 points and 11 rebounds while junior guard Spencer Strong added 11 points for coach Scott Graffam’s team.
The Rams outscored the visiting Vikings 16-2 during a 4-minute, 33-second stretch that began early in the fourth quarter, with Missbrenner supplying eight points during the surge.
Reserve guard Luke Caruso kicked off the run with a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Bangor a 37-36 lead with 6:26 left in the game and Missbrenner added another basket from beyond the arc on the Rams’ next possession to make it 40-36.
Jacob Luksza scored after stealing an inbounding pass to rally Oxford Hills within 40-38, but Bangor scored 10 unanswered points, including a three-point play and two free throws by Missbrenner and a one-on-one runner by Fleming, to build a 50-38 cushion with 1:53 remaining.
“Noah’s just physical, he’s really strong and has a wide body to create space for himself,” said Fleming. “He’s also quick for his size, nobody expects him to go by them and then he does and he has all that strength to get to the rim.”
Strong scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, in the game’s final 92 seconds but Oxford Hills got no closer than eight points.
“I don’t think we were focused enough in the first half,” said Vance, “so when we went in (at halftime) coach talked to us and we came out a lot more aggressive.”
Among those more aggressive after intermission was Fleming, who admitted to some early-game jitters as he faced his former teammates for the first time.
“The first half I was really nervous about it,” said the 6-foot-5 junior, who was guarded by multiple Vikings while shooting just 1-for-7 from the field during a three-point first half. “In the second half I just had to calm down and play my game.”
Oxford Hills built a 24-19 halftime lead largely on the strength of its offensive rebounding, with the Vikings outboarding Bangor 21-12 overall during the first two quarters.
Oxford Hills twice led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but seven points by Vance helped narrow the gap to five by intermission.
Vance then hit a 3-pointer and a floater from the lane to open the second half and rally Bangor to a 24-24 tie, and Fleming followed with seven points of his own in the third period to leave the teams tied entering the game’s final eight minutes.
Bangor outrebounded Oxford Hills 16-14 during the second half to aid in its comeback.
“They shot a lot of threes in the first half and the misses were going for long rebounds,” said Fleming. “We didn’t have any back-side boxing out and boxing out on the perimeter but once we did that in the second half we seemed to get a lot more of the rebounds and held them to one shot.
“We were only giving them one shot and it helped that I was playing my game, the nerves were gone by then so I could just find the open guys, rebound and play defense.”