HAMPDEN, Maine — Senior Night is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most high school basketball players.
Add to that some recent setbacks Hampden Academy has experienced against Bangor on the hardwood, and for veterans like fourth-year starter Ian McIntyre there was plenty of motivation as the Broncos fought off the Rams 80-73 on Tuesday evening.
“The fact we lost to them in the regular season earlier this year and lost to them here last year really fired us up for this game,” said McIntyre. “That’s all we talked about, that it was the last home game for the seniors and we couldn’t lose to them again.”
Hampden, the top-ranked team in Class A North, scored its 11th straight victory and improved to 16-1 heading into its regular-season finale at No. 2 Nokomis of Newport on Thursday night.
Junior Kory Winch led a balanced Hampden offense with 21 points while senior guard Johnny Wolfington scored 20 and McIntyre had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Another senior, Tommy Raye, added 11 points for the Broncos while sophomore guard Bryce Lausier contributed eight points.
“I’m very happy we had a close game,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett, whose team had scored its first 15 victories by an average of 26.9 points per game. “We haven’t had many of those and you’ve got to have some of those to learn how to win when it’s close. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”
Junior forward Matt Fleming scored a game-high 31 points, 25 in the second half, and grabbed 14 rebounds to pace Bangor while junior guard Damien Vance finished with 21 points and sophomore wing Henry Westrich added 13.
The 9-8 Rams, who are fighting for one of the top four seeds in Class AA North to secure a regional quarterfinal game on their homecourt next week, hosts No. 3 Edward Little of Auburn on Thursday to close out the regular season. Bangor began the night ranked fifth in the division.
Bangor made 10 of 15 3-point tries during the first half of its 68-63 win over Hampden on Dec. 27, but in the rematch it was the Broncos that caught fire early from long range, making 7 of its first 10 3-point tries en route to a 32-25 halftime advantage.
Bangor was just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc during the first two quarters.
“We really shot the ball well at the beginning of the game, but really our focus was to try to get get them to not shoot it as well as the last game,” said Wolfington. “We had to close them out and force them into our help.”
Bangor stayed close behind 11 first-half points from Vance, then scored the first seven points of the third quarter to forge a 32-32 tie after a 3-pointer by Luke Caruso and a fast-break basket by Westrich.
Coach Carl Parker’s club forced two more ties but could never grab the lead before Wolfington buried two 3-pointers as bookends of an 8-0 run that sent Hampden back out to a 45-37 advantage.
The Broncos’ edge was 57-45 early in the fourth quarter when Fleming — who scored 18 consecutive Bangor points during one stretch of the second half — went on a personal 7-0 run to pull Bangor within 57-52.
Part of that comeback was fueled by newly applied fullcourt pressure by the Rams, and it helped Bangor get as close as 63-61 after another fast-break basket by Westrich midway through the final period.
Hampden finally began to solve the pressure, with McIntyre feeding Raye for a layup and then scoring twice inside on assists from Winch to give the Broncos a 69-61 cushion.
After Fleming countered for Bangor with a spin move from the lane, Winch scored six straight Hampden points and Wolfington added two free throws as the Broncos’ lead grew to 77-65.
“We just wanted to come out and make a statement for our last home game as seniors,” said Wolfington. “The was the last time we get to lace ‘em up and come out here, so we were really ready to play.”