BANGOR — Allen Iverson somewhat famously found little use for practice during his NBA days.
But for the Bangor High School boys basketball team, practices have been a valuable resource in building its seven-game winning streak.
“In the last month we’ve really focused on our defense and our intensity in practice,” said senior guard Tristan Thomas, who had 12 points and three steals in limited minutes to help the Rams cruise past Skowhegan 68-33 at Red Barry Gymnasium on Friday night. “A lot of us, especially the captains, have really picked it up intensity-wise in practice and I think that’s helped us focus on our game.”
Since dropping its season opener at Hampden, coach Roger Reed’s club had largely overwhelmed its opposition, limiting its last seven foes to an average of 31.6 points per game while winning by an average of 26.1 points per contest.
Throw out a four-point win at Lewiston, and Bangor’s average victory margin during its current run is 29.9 points per game, a succession of game-night efforts the Rams say begins long before the opening tipoff.
“I think our practices have gotten better,” said senior forward Zach Blodgett, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds against Skowhegan. “We’ve turned up the intensity, we’re playing more physical, we get on each other and we just get ready for games a lot better. Our preparation wasn’t very good for the Hampden game at all.”
There was no questioning Bangor’s preparation for Skowhegan, a team that had won two of its last three games since an 0-5 start under new coach Dave Simpson.
Bangor took a 5-0 lead on a follow-up shot by Blodgett and a 3-pointer by Patrick Stewart, then answered a layup by Skowhegan’s Joey Lizotte with 14 straight points — including eight after grabbing offensive rebounds and four more after Skowhegan turnovers.
Blodgett finished the opening quarter with eight points and seven rebounds as Bangor built a 19-3 lead. The margin was 39-11 after a first half during which Bangor committed just three turnovers while forcing 13 from Skowhegan.
“I think we’re getting better at running our motion (offense),” said Reed. “We’re screening better, we’ve been working at that, and we’ve been trying to do a much better job of making better reads and better passes, too. We’re still working on the defense and the rebounding, but those things we knew we had to improve.”
That’s not to say the defense and rebounding were deficient against a much shorter Skowhegan squad. Bangor amassed a 36-21 rebounding advantage and forced 24 turnovers while limiting Skowhegan to 30 percent shooting on just 30 field-goal attempts. Lucas Fortier led the Indians with nine points.
But the Rams know they may not be able to replicate their recent gaudy statistics next week when they face a midseason exam of sorts with games against Mt. Blue and Hampden Academy, both 6-1 heading into their own showdown at Farmington on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got to practice hard and play hard to beat the Hampdens and the Mt. Blues,” said Thomas, “so we’ve got to play hard no matter who we play.
“But we really have some intensity brewing right now.”