BREWER, Maine — It was a cross-river homecoming for Brad Libby on Tuesday night as the first-year Bangor High School boys basketball coach returned to Brewer to coach against his alma mater for the first time.
If he didn’t remember it after six years as an assistant coach at Husson University, the former Witches guard learned that while the schools’ basketball programs may be in different stages of development at the moment, the competitive spirit of their longstanding rivalry remains strong.
After limiting Brewer to just eight first-half points, undefeated Bangor had to withstand a second-half rally by the Witches before finally pulling away to a 62-44 victory.
“We like to make things interesting, don’t we?” said Libby after Brewer cut a 17-point, second-quarter deficit to as few as seven points.
Senior guard Brandon Glidden followed up a 15-point third quarter by sophomore Dylan Huff with a 3-pointer that drew the Witches within 41-34 with seven minutes left in the contest.
But Bangor had a decisive response, a 15-2 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes that included six points and two assists by senior guard Isaac Cummings, who transferred from Brewer last summer.
Senior forward Matt Fleming added four points and an assist to Cummings off a Brewer turnover for the final points of the run, which gave Bangor a 56-36 cushion with less than four minutes to play.
“Brewer played really tough, they didn’t take a play off,” said Libby. “They got down early, but they fought back.
“We got undisciplined a bit defensively in the second half, but if we can clean up the small things it will take us from a good team to a great team.”
Junior forward Henry Westrich paced the Rams’ offense with a game-high 19 points, while Fleming finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five assists and senior guard Damien Vance added 12 points and six rebounds.
Class AA Bangor improved to 4-0, including 3-0 on the road, heading into a key home game against Portland at Red Barry Gymnasium on Friday night.
Huff, part of a youthful Brewer starting lineup that also included freshman guards Colby Smith and Aaron Newcomb, scored all of his team-high 17 points in the second half.
Junior forward Trevor Pearson came off the bench to add eight second-half points for the Class A Witches, who fell to 1-3 heading into a game Friday night at undefeated Hampden Academy.
“The kids battled and we were able to stay with a great Bangor team,” said Brewer coach Ben Goodwin. “They can hold their heads up, they earned some respect tonight.”
A veteran Bangor team — six of its top eight players are seniors — used its height advantage and experience to dominate the first half defensively.
Unable to get inside the Rams’ switching man-to-man set, Brewer made just 3 of 25 field-goal attempts during the first half and went scoreless for a 9:04 stretch after Jaycob Miller scored the Witches’ first basket of the game two minutes into the first quarter.
Bangor scored 12 unanswered points during Brewer’s drought to take a 17-2 lead, but its own mediocre shooting — 9 for 27 before intermission — prevented the Rams from blowing the game open.
Westrich and Fleming had eight points apiece at the break as Bangor maintained a 22-8 advantage.