HERMON, Maine — Interior defense may not be one of the more glamorous parts of a typical basketball game, save for an emphatically blocked shot that stirs the crowd.
But undefeated Hermon used a stout effort defensively in the paint Saturday night to limit Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor to 13 second-half points and pull away to a 46-35 victory in a highly anticipated Class B North midseason showdown.
“Down in there deep our kids did a really good job of just standing tall, getting their hands up and making things difficult,” said Hermon coach Mark Reed. “They had some shots that didn’t miss by much, but they were contested. They were tough shots.”
Top-ranked Hermon improved its record to 12-0 and now stands as the only unbeaten boys team left in the North regardless of class after Class AA leader Portland lost at Scarborough 69-66 earlier Saturday.
Third-seeded MDI, the defending Class B state champion, fell to 8-2.
“I was proud of my guys, I thought they battled the whole game,” said MDI coach Justin Norwood. “I thought a few little things here and there that we didn’t do they took advantage of and that’s what good teams do, they take advantage of the little things.
“I think we can play better,” he added, “but Hermon had a lot to do with that.”
Hermon complemented its defense with balanced offense as five Hawks scored between six and 11 points. Garrett Trask led the way with 11 points while Jacob Godfrey and Isaac Varney added 10 apiece.
Andrew Phelps and Derek Collin each scored 10 points for MDI.
MDI jumped out to a 9-4 lead five minutes into the game before Hermon got untracked offensively, scoring nine straight points to take a 13-9 advantage by the end of the period.
The Hawks extended their lead to 20-15 on a follow-up shot and a midrange jumper by Godfrey midway through the second quarter, but a late 3-pointer by Phelps rallied MDI within 23-22 by intermission.
Drew Shea then drove to the basket against the 6-foot-6 Godfrey on MDI’s first possession of the second half and scored to give his team a 24-23 lead, but while the Trojans continued to attack the rim offensively Hermon countered with a stout defensive effort that produced several blocked shots by Godfrey, Varney, Jordan Bishop and Keenan Marseille.
MDI managed just five more field goals in the game.
“We work on that in practice all the time and it connects with us during the game,” said Marseille. “We have guys like Jacob and Isaac and Jordan that are so big and effective down there that they can affect a lot of shots in the post.”
While MDI’s offense bogged down, Hermon was able to convert some of its defensive might into transition offense, with Varney and Garrett Trask combining for 19 second-half points.
Marseille converted a second straight offensive rebound into a basket that gave the Hawks the lead for good at 25-24 before Cody Hawes fed Varney for a fast-break layup to give Hermon a three-point edge.
The lead was 34-30 entering a fourth quarter during which Varney and Trask scored all 12 Hermon points while the Hawks limited MDI to one field goal over the final seven minutes of play.
Trask buried two 3-pointers off assists by Marseille while two of Varney’s three baskets in the period came after steals — the second one leading to a slam dunk that gave Hermon its biggest cushion at 46-32.