TOPSHAM, Maine — Hampden Academy’s longest bus trip of the boys high school basketball season before Tuesday’s two-and-a-half-hour excursion south was to nearby Bangor and Brewer, with the Broncos home for six of their first eight games.
Prior to Hampden’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference contest with Mt. Ararat, a fire alarm sent the teams outside midway through the junior varsity contest, delaying the start of the varsity game and getting the Broncos out of their pre-game routine.
“It was a long trip, and it was tough with the fire alarm, trying to play at high level from the start,” said Hampden Academy coach Russ Bartlett after his team’s 59-37 victory over the 4-5 Eagles.
The Broncos, who improved to 9-0 and host Brunswick on Friday, rode the hot shooting of Zach Gilpin, who scored 17 of his game-high 28 points in the first half as Hampden recovered from an early deficit to claim a 32-15 halftime lead.
“We came out a little bit flat and didn’t match their energy level at the start of the game, but luckily we made a couple threes and got momentum off of that,” said Bartlett.
“We weren’t playing Hampden Academy basketball, and I felt that we had to get fired up,” said Gilpin. “We focus on trying to finish strong in each half, and the second quarter we were able to separate ourselves a little bit.”
Mount Ararat controlled the flow of the game early, getting four points from freshman Shyheim Ulrickson and Mason Griffin for an 11-10 lead late in the opening quarter.
However, Gilpin finished off a 40-second possession by draining a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Broncos a 13-11 lead and some much-needed momentum. Gilpin’s eight first-quarter points kept his team close until the shots began falling.
“We were doing what Mount Ararat basketball does, working really hard and trying to get every single loose ball,” said Mount Ararat coach Aaron Watson, whose team visits Brewer on Friday. “We don’t say a loose ball is a 50-50 ball. We feel they are 80-20 balls that we should get.”
“We needed Zach to score tonight because we did struggle offensively,” said Bartlett. “He is an emotional player and can make plays, and he did when we needed him to.”
Hampden Academy, which made 6 of 10 shots from behind the arc in the first half, pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring the Eagles 19-4 for a 17-point lead at the break. Gilpin added nine more points, while Matt Martin came off the Broncos bench to chip in five points.
Hampden made six 3-pointers in the first half, finishing the game with 9-1 advantage from long distance.
“They move the ball well and they are athletic and are just able to run the court,” said Mount Ararat’s Mason Griffin, who had six points. “The shot at the buzzer in the first quarter really hurt.”
Hampden continued its run early in the second half, sprinting out to a 42-19 lead on a Gilpin 3-pointer. But Mount Ararat had one last run left, using a 14-3 spurt to close the third frame and get within 12 points, 45-33. Ulrickson had 10 of his team-high 18 points for the Eagles in the quarter.
“They were getting to the hoop well in the third quarter,” said Gilpin, who led the Broncos with 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots. “We weren’t getting outside on them, and Ulrickson was able to get to the basket. It is hard to believe that he is a freshman.”
“We’re not going to give up,” said Watson. “Our fans charged us up a little bit, and they helped us out. When they are positive, our kids respond to that. We just tried to get stops.”
Hampden showed its experience in the fourth quarter, getting five quick points from Matt Palmer and Gilpin to pull away.
“That is a good basketball team,” said Watson of Hampden Academy, which shot 38 percent (18 of 47) from the floor and made 14 of 17 free throws, including 10 of 11 in the second half. “They were able to figure out where our weaknesses are. I don’t think that we as a coaching staff did a good enough job of adapting to what they were taking away from us.”
Palmer and Martin each had eight points for the Broncos, while Nick Gilpin added seven points. Palmer pulled down five rebounds and dished out four assists. The Broncos held a 29-21 rebounding advantage.
Mount Ararat finished 14 of 43 (32 percent) from the field and made eight of 14 free throws.