PITTSFIELD, Maine — Coming off three straight defeats to two of the top teams in Class B North, the Oceanside Mariners were eager to re-assume their position among the division’s elite Friday night.
Solid defense and an offensive show by senior forward Michael Norton Jr. made that happen as the Rockland-based Mariners pulled away from Maine Central Institute 55-39.
Norton Jr. nearly outscored the Huskies by himself, totaling 35 points on 13 of 23 shooting from the field, 2 of 4 from beyond the 3-point arc and 7 of 7 from the free-throw line.
“It felt like a good night for me,” he said.
Norton Jr. scored 18 straight Oceanside points during one second-half stretch, including the first 10 points of a 16-2 run that put the game away.
Oceanside led just 36-32 early in the fourth quarter after one of Adam Bertrand’s three second-half 3-pointers for MCI, but Norton Jr.’s versatility was too much for the Huskies’ defense to handle.
First he took a Leo Reid pass in for a layup, then he softly netted a high-arching 3-pointer from the left wing to give Oceanside a 41-32 cushion,
Norton Jr. went to the low post on Oceanside’s next possession to score over a defender, then drove from the top of the key to the rim to make his eighth consecutive field-goal attempt as part of a three-point play to make it 46-32 with 4:23 left in the game.
Teammate Trevor Reed added a runner from the lane before MCI’s Jose Ignacio Montes Valverde finally answered with a basket for MCI.
Oceanside Jack Lombardo then made two free throws and a driving layup as Oceanside took its largest lead at 52-34 with two minutes remaining.
“I thought (Oceanside) coach (Matt) Breen did a nice job in setting some screens and forcing switches,” said MCI coach Josh Tardy. “When we did switch because coach Breen was running a good offense, we had mismatches and (Norton Jr.) carved us. They exposed us on the mismatches, and that’s a good coaching job.”
Lombardo finished with seven points, five in the fourth quarter, for 7-5 Oceanside, which had averaged just 43.7 points in its last three games — two losses to 11-0 Class B North top seed Hermon and one to No. 5 Winslow, now 9-3.
Oceanside’s other two losses are to defending state champion and third-ranked Mount Desert Island, 8-1 entering a key game at Hermon on Saturday night.
“I think our offense wasn’t as stiff tonight, we were definitely flowing and getting each other open,” said Norton Jr. “We were taking advantage of the off ball by setting screens for each other and that led to some easy buckets.
“I think it’s a step forward for our team,” he added. “We’re finding each other’s roles, and our playing styles are coming together.”
Sophomore Owen Williams led 7-5 MCI with 10 points, seven in the first quarter as the Huskies built an 11-6 lead.
But when Valverde, the Huskies’ junior center, picked up his second foul and had to sit out much of the second quarter, Oceanside began finding more offensive success near the basket as Norton Jr. scored 13 points in the period to help his team take a 26-17 halftime lead.
“The big thing is reading the defenses and seeing how they react to each level whether it’s mid-range or down low,” Norton Jr. said. “Depending on their positioning I’ll change my position to get the advantage either down low or on top.”
Bertrand finished with nine points for MCI while Valverde and Daniel Garamvolgyi each scored seven.