HERMON, Maine — Hermon High School has fielded one of the youngest boys basketball teams in the Eastern Maine Class B ranks for three years now.
But while the Hawks still sport as many freshmen (three) as seniors on their current 15-player roster, some experience is starting to reveal itself as coach Mark Reed’s club enters the new year riding a four-game winning streak.
A primary case in point is junior guard Tyler Thayer, a third-year starter who scored 11 of his game-high 27 points during the fourth quarter Monday as Hermon rallied for a 59-51 victory over Old Town in a Big East Conference Class B matinee.
“He’s been playing since he was a freshman and has been getting a little better every year,” said Reed. “Now he’s really starting to do a good job as a floor general and of encouraging his teammates and advising them in positive ways of being in the right places and doing the right things. That kind of leadership on the floor is important.”
Hermon, which trailed 25-16 late in the first half, got an initial spark from sophomore guard Eric Hoogterp, who buried a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the left corner to draw the Hawks within 26-22 at halftime and followed with three more 3-pointers during an 11-point third period that helped the Hawks assume a 42-34 advantage.
“We came out in the third quarter and coach wanted us to pick up our intensity on defense, but overall we had kids step up and get us in a rhythm,” said Thayer. “Eric hit some big shots early on and that got us going.”
Then it was left for Thayer to provide the stability his club needed down the stretch to improve its record to 4-2.
After Cam Archer made back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Old Town within 46-44 with three minutes remaining on a day when Coyotes’ standout Garrett Libby struggled with his shot, Thayer made 7 of 8 free-throw tries and added a drive to the basket to help Hermon maintain its lead.
Old Town was still within 53-51 on another 3-pointer by Archer with 52 seconds left, but Jacob Rioux fed Fritz Marseille for a layup and Thayer followed with two free throws to put the game away.
“They stepped up defensively in the second half, and definitely in the third quarter, and we were a little lax defensively and they got some inside penetration and then made the kickouts and Hoogterp made the 3-pointers,” said Old Town coach Brian McDormand, whose 5-2 Coyotes already have equaled their win total for the entire 2011-12 campaign.
“That set the tone, but we battled back until the foul trouble killed us and we had to foul Tyler Thayer. He’s lights out from the line.”
Hoogterp finished with 19 points while Marseille scored eight second-half points and played a leading defensive role against Libby, who finished with 15 points — nearly nine less than his season average of 23.8 points per game beginning the day.
Libby, a long-range shooter who has made as many as eight 3-pointers in a game this season, made just one basket from beyond the arc and earned just one trip to the free-throw line against the Hawks’ defense.
“I tried to take away his left-handed dribble as much as possible because I knew he was left-handed and he likes to penetrate to the left side,” said Marseille, a 6-foot-2-inch senior forward who sat out most of the second quarter after drawing his second foul. “And I tried to stay up on him real close so he couldn’t get a quick shot off because he likes to shoot the 3 and if you give him any space he’ll take that 3-point shot.”
Archer added 14 points for the Coyotes.
Some effective work on the offensive backboards and the all-around play of junior swingman Garvey Melmed helped stake Old Town to a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second period produced a sequence of runs, with Hermon scoring the first nine points to take a 16-13 lead and Old Town countering with a 12-0 run to regain a 25-16 cushion.
But Hermon had the last run of the quarter, sandwiching 3-pointers by Thayer and Hoogterp around a free throw by Old Town’s Zach Bartlett to narrow the gap to four points at intermission and provide the youthful Hawks an instant energy boost they carried with them the rest of the way.
“We started out the year 0-2. We had two big games and just couldn’t get it done,” said Thayer of season-opening losses at Presque Isle and at Lee Academy. “We’ve had a lot of big games on our schedule since then that we’ve won, and hopefully we can keep on winning.”