LINCOLN, Maine — With the last two Class C state championships already to its credit, the George Stevens Academy boys basketball team is accustomed to big games.
For the Mattanawcook Academy Lynx, the effort to be part of such events on a regular basis is part of their ongoing rebuilding process.
GSA showed off its edge in big-game experience Tuesday evening, jumping out to a 13-0 lead and withstanding several MA comebacks before pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 73-46 victory.
The win was the eighth straight for coach Dwayne Carter’s Eagles, now 8-1 on the season.
Mattanawcook, playing its second game in as many nights, dips to 6-2.
“They came out and made shots right from the get-go,” said MA coach Lucas Turner, whose team went 1-17 in Class B last winter before being moved back to Class C by enrollment. “We got down 13-0 and 17-3 and we worked so hard to get back into the game, but with that first run they had we were playing catch-up the rest of the way.”
All-Maine senior guard Taylor Schildroth paced GSA offensively with 23 points, six assists and five rebounds, while 6-foot-7 senior center Max Mattson — seeing his first game action since Dec. 28 due to a back injury — contributed 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field along with five rebounds and three blocked shots.
“It felt really nice to be back out with the team playing ball like I’ve wanted to do all season,” said Mattson.
Senior forward Stefan Simmons added 13 points and seven rebounds, another of six GSA players to score at least seven points.
“We’ve been working really hard this year on involving more people and being more dimensional so we’re harder to guard,” said GSA coach Carter. “We know we have two really good players that get keyed on and the other guys need to step up and score.”
MA got a big game from senior guard Alex Brown, who amassed 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists while also drawing the defensive assignment against Schildroth with teammate and defensive specialist Nate Ring sidelined with a dislocated finger.
Backcourt mate Logan Thompson added 12 points for the Lynx.
GSA took control of the game immediately as sophomore guard Caden Mattson hit a 3-pointer and Schildroth followed with a jumper from the key and two more 3-pointers before Max Mattson capped off the game-opening blitz with a follow-up basket less than three minutes into the game.
Thompson finally answered with a 3-pointer for MA, but Simmons connected from the lane and fed Percy Zentz for a layup and the GSA lead was 14 points.
“When we came out on the floor, Taylor even said that we needed to set the tone and we did that,” said Carter. “We set the tone early and our defense was really pretty solid.”
Mattanawcook clawed back, working inside the GSA defense while Max Mattson rested and rallying within 21-17 thanks to a 12-2 run capped off by Caden Spencer-Thompson’s fast-break layup with 5:26 left in the half.
George Stevens then ran off eight straight points, with a spin move by Max Mattson producing a three-point play and the Eagles’ big man then splitting two defenders for an 8-foot runner.
Isaac Wardwell’s 3-pointer off a Schildroth assist made it 29-17.
Mattanawcook pulled within 33-26 by intermission, only to have George Stevens score the first nine points of the second half, with a 3-pointer and drive by Simmons followed by a Schildroth post-up move and a Max Mattson layup off a Simmons lob to extend the Eagles’ lead to 42-26 less than three minutes into the third period.
Mattanawcook twice crept back within nine points, the final time at 50-41 when Brown followed a steal-layup with a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
But again the reigning champs had the answer, this time a run of 12 unanswered points that made it 62-41 midway through the final period.
“This was the first big game for these guys against a top-notch team and the band was here and the crowd was here,” said Turner. “Playing at this level is part of the process, so the next time we have a game like this I think we’ll be a little better prepared.”