June 20, 2018
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Blodgett, Bangor top Hampden

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

BANGOR — The Bangor boys basketball team showed some vulnerability in its first game this season.

But that was six weeks ago, and the Rams have been close to untouchable since then — its winning streak now at nine games after avenging that opening-day setback with a 55-40 victory over Hampden Academy in a Class A showdown at Red Barry Gymnasium on Friday night.

Top-ranked Bangor has allowed just 32.9 points per game during its current run while defeating those opponents by an average of 23.6 points, including a 14-point win at No. 4 Mt. Blue of Farmington on Tuesday before subduing second-ranked Hampden in their long-awaited rematch.

“We’re right where we wanted to be after this week,” said Bangor coach Roger Reed. “Our defense has been very good. We work hard on it, but it’s been very good.”

Senior forward Zach Blodgett proved too much for Hampden’s defense, scoring a game-high 29 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field, including 8 of 10 in the second half on a blend of medium-range jumpers and power moves near the basket as the Rams built a lead of as many as 23 points.

“He was awesome tonight,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett of Blodgett. “He got it going, and it wasn’t like he was doing that on just anybody, he was doing it against Graham (Safford), who’s probably our best defender. He really found his offense within their offense tonight on his catches, and he was creating his offense off one dribble, which is a sign of a good player.”

Blodgett also grabbed seven rebounds, while senior center Josiah Hartley added 14 points and eight rebounds and junior forward Patrick Stewart had five points and 10 rebounds as Bangor’s starting frontcourt players outscored their Hampden counterparts by a remarkable 48-2.

Bangor’s man-to-man defense, meanwhile, suffocated Hampden’s offense, limiting the Broncos to 24 percent (11 of 45) shooting from the field and forcing 16 turnovers. Guards Tristan Thomas, Luke Hetterman and Jacques Larochelle were among the defensive catalysts for the Rams, applying perimeter pressure against Safford and backcourt mate Christian McCue that not only held them to 10-of-31 shooting but allowed few high-quality entry passes to the post.

“This is definitely the best we’ve played so far this year,” Blodgett said. “We haven’t been like this all season. The intensity was really there.”

Hampden (7-3) did jump out to a 5-0 lead on a jumper by Safford and a 3-pointer by McCue in the game’s first 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

But the Broncos managed just one more field goal in the first half, shooting 3 of 20 from the field while staying within 25-15 at intermission only by making 7 of 8 free throws.

Hampden still maintained an 11-8 lead six minutes into the contest after an NBA-range 3-pointer by McCue, but Bangor held the Broncos without a basket for the final 10:01 of the half while building a double-digit lead behind 12 points from Blodgett and eight from Hartley.

“Obviously, they dominated the game after the first quarter,” said Bartlett. “But I felt like if we had just made our shots at the rim, as poorly as we played we’d still have a chance. We probably had five or six shots at the hoop that normally we’d make most of them, but we didn’t make any of them.”

Bangor’s defense prolonged Hampden’s field-goal drought to 13:06 before Safford finally hit a jumper from the lane with 4:55 left in the third quarter to cut the Broncos’ deficit to 28-18, but Bangor then went on a 10-2 run — featuring three baskets by Blodgett and a 3-pointer by Larochelle — to take a 38-20 lead with a minute left in the period.

Hampden went without a field goal for the first 4:02 of the final period as Bangor pushed its lead to as much as 49-26 on a jumper from the key by Blodgett with 4:51 left.

McCue and Safford each finished with 18 points.

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