DEXTER, Maine — It had all the intensity of a Little Ten Conference matchup between the rival schools when Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln met Dexter in a battle of unbeaten Class C North contenders at Guiski Gymnasium on Thursday night — minus the football pads, of course.
Mattanawcook’s dominance of one of the more physical elements of the game — rebounding — proved decisive and the Lynx scored the game’s final nine points to earn a 41-34 victory.
“Going into it we knew it was going to be a physical, physical game,” said MA senior point guard Alex Brown, “and it was.”
Mattanawcook improved to 6-0 and is one of only four undefeated boys basketball teams left in the North region along with Class AA Edward Little of Auburn, Class B Hermon and Class D Jonesport-Beals and Woodland.
Dexter is 7-1 but remains second in the Class C North Heal Points, one spot ahead of Mattanawcook.
“We knew we were the only two undefeated teams left,” said MA senior forward Cayden Spencer-Thompson. “Coach (Lucas Turner) never really brought it up but it was in the back of our heads at practice. Nobody wanted to say it but we knew it.”
The senior-laden Lynx outrebounded Dexter 37-24 to generate numerous extra possessions, particularly late in the fourth quarter. That was after the Tigers took their only lead of the second half when Trever Richards banked in a 3-pointer from the left wing and Kobe Pillsbury banked in a 10-footer from the lane to cap off a 10-0 run.
Pillsbury’s basket gave Dexter a 34-32 lead with 4:32 left. The Tigers never scored again.
“We can almost thank Lee (Academy) for the rebounding because Lee got 12 offensive rebounds off us in our last game,” said Turner. “With the snow we’ve only had one practice since then and we focused on that. We like to run and the weak side’s been leaking out a little too much so tonight the plan was to stay home and get the boards so they couldn’t score.”
MA’s Kris Milner tied the game at 34-34 with a drive to the basket with 4:15 left, then Spencer-Thompson used the leaping skills that have earned him a track scholarship to Louisville to throw down a two-handed dunk off a Dexter turnover to give the Lynx the lead for good with 2:16 to play.
Spencer-Thompson extended the lead to 38-34 by scoring off an offensive rebound, and MA added three late free throws to go with a late-game defensive stand that did not allow Dexter’s scorers near the basket.
“I don’t think it matters who you’re playing, if you’re going to give a team two or three chances every time down the court, no matter what they shoot for a percentage, they’re going to score points and points were at a premium today,” said Dexter coach Peter Murray.
“There were not a lot of points to be scored and it was almost a case of first team to 40 wins it.”
Senior guard Max Woodman led MA’s offense with 13 points, 11 during a first half that ended with the Lynx holding an 18-15 lead.
Brown shook off early foul trouble to contribute 12 points, 10 after intermission, while Spencer-Thompson came off the bench after missing Wednesday’s practice to contribute seven points and nine rebounds.
MA also got a big defensive effort from 6-1 senior guard Nate Ring, who helped limit Dexter’s leading scorer, 6-3 sophomore forward Brett Kusnierz, to a season-low five points.
“I thought he was going to come in strong, post me up and body me underneath, but the team defense came down and helped when he penetrated into the post,” said Ring, who also grabbed nine rebounds. “Cayden and Kris double-teamed him with me and that really helped and then we were able to close out on him on the perimeter because he’s a really good shooter.”
Trever Richards led Dexter with 11 points while Pillsbury had eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds and Nathan Richards also scored eight points.