BREWER, Maine — Earning a regional championship in high school basketball is cause for celebration but it also carries a price, at least for those who represent that accomplishment the following year.
This year’s Oceanside High School boys basketball team is living with that additional challenge after the Mariners’ run to the 2016 Class A North crown, and so far, so good for coach Matt Breen’s club after improving its record to 5-1 with a 44-33 victory over Brewer on Tuesday evening.
Oceanside struggled early, managing just four points in the first quarter and 15 during a turnover-plagued first half against Brewer’s aggressive man-to-man defense.
But the Mariners matched the Witches’ intensity after the break, controlled the backboards and used a run of eight unanswered points at the end of the third quarter to take control.
“One of the big things we talked about at halftime was making the adjustment of attacking their pressure, matching their physicality and then owning the boards,” said Oceanside coach Matt Breen. “I didn’t think we did a good job on the glass in the first half but in the second half we stepped up and did a nice job.”
Pivotal to that effort was the all-around play of 6-foot-2-inch junior forward Michael Norton Jr., an energy-producing player coming off the Oceanside bench last winter who now is doing much the same in a starting capacity this winter.
Norton contributed game-high totals of 10 points, 11 rebounds and five steals along with two blocked shots against a Brewer team that began the night riding a three-game winning streak.
“It was physical and we weren’t used to it so we had to adapt,” said Norton. “We just had to make sure we got position underneath the boards and played up to their level in the physical aspect.”
Two other veterans of the 2016 postseason run, seniors Sam Atwood and Nate Raye, scored seven points apiece, as did sophomore guard Jack Lombardo. Atwood also contributed eight rebounds and two blocks.
Junior forward Kobe Rogerson led 3-2 Brewer with eight points while senior forward Tyler Hafford grabbed seven rebounds.
Oceanside made just two of eight shots from the field and committed eight turnovers during the first quarter as Brewer took a 7-4 lead, and only two 3-pointers by Lombardo during the second quarter enabled the Mariners to hang within 18-15 at intermission.
But Oceanside outscored Brewer 16-4 during the third quarter, and when Norton worked the inside for a pair of baskets from the lane it created even more space for the Mariners’ perimeter shooters.
Sophomore forward Cooper Wirkala and Atwood took advantage, each connecting from beyond the 3-point arc during the final 2:16 of the period as Oceanside moved out to a 31-22 lead.
Brewer’s Brandon Glidden opened the fourth quarter by driving through the Oceanside defense for a three-point play to cut the deficit to 31-25, but Raye answered by taking an Atwood pass and burying a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner to restore the Mariners to a nine-point advantage.
Brewer got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“We just had to be more aware of what we were doing with the ball so the offense flows,” said Norton.