ORONO, Maine — Nearly two full games in 24 hours could have left the Old Town boys basketball team devoid of energy entering the final two minutes of play against rival Orono on Thursday night.
Perhaps the fact the Coyotes trailed by a point created an overriding sense of urgency, because they found enough juice to track down several key offensive rebounds that combined with accurate late free-throw shooting and enabled them to rally for a 58-51 victory.
“We played a little bit smarter in the fourth quarter,” said Old Town coach Brian McDormand, whose team was coming off a 63-56 loss to Ellsworth a night earlier and will take a 3-2 record to undefeated Caribou on Saturday afternoon.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game tonight, but we just hung in there and I think our experience took over at the end. We went inside with the ball, got fouled and made our shots from the free-throw line.”
Perhaps the game’s key play came when reserve forward Mitchell Cole hustled after a missed Old Town free throw, leading to the ball going out of bounds off Orono and giving the Coyotes the ball back still trailing 47-46.
Junior center Adam Richardson cashed in on the second chance, getting fouled while following in his own miss and adding the free throw for a three-point play to give Old Town the lead for good at 49-47 with 1:46 remaining.
Orono came up empty on its next possession and Old Town then struck again on the offensive backboards, this time with Nick Cowan making two free throws after grabbing a rebound to make it a four-point game with 1:12 left.
“They get an offensive rebound and get a one-and-one, and then they get another rebound and make two foul shots, that’s a five-point swing,” said Orono coach Jason Coleman, whose team played three freshmen starters along with a top sub who also is a first-year player.
“That’s where our youth comes into play a little bit, and getting to where we do the little things all the time instead of in spurts.”
Old Town sealed the win at the free-throw line. The Coyotes made 10 of 13 tries during the final 1:46, with senior guard Garvey Melmed making 5 of 6 during that span.
Melmed scored a game-high 24 points — including a 5-of-6 effort from 3-point land — and grabbed seven rebounds for Old Town, which finished with a 34-22 advantage on the backboards. Richardson added 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Cowan contributed seven points and seven rebounds and backup guard Tyler Gifford also scored seven points.
More than half of Orono’s points came from freshmen, with Nate DeSisto amassing nine points and five assists, Keenan Collett adding six points and six rebounds, Jackson Coutts also scoring six points and Jake Koffman chipping in with five points and five blocked shots.
Junior Damian Heeger also scored nine points for the 2-3 Red Riots.
“Eight of our 13 players haven’t played varsity basketball before this year, so as the season goes along hopefully we’ll jell together as a group,” said Coleman.
Melmed came out firing from long range, hitting two early 3-pointers as Old Town jumped out to a 15-5 lead, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Coutts midway through the second quarter helped Orono grab a 25-23 lead.
Melmed followed with his fourth 3-pointer of the half and then fed Richardson for a fast-break layup that gave Old Town a 28-26 lead at the break.
Neither team led by more than three points during the second half until Old Town mustered its final surge.