Many fans of the Bangor High School boys basketball team got their first look at the Rams on Friday night as they played their Class AA North home opener against Windham.
They had to like what they saw.
Sam Martin, Bangor’s 6-foot-8 senior center, scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds while classmate Henry Westrich anchored a largely airtight defense as the Rams improved their record to 3-0 with a 62-42 victory at Red Barry Gymnasium.
While the roster is considerably different from the 2019 state championship edition that graduated a host of seniors, the bottom line behind this team’s success so far this season is the same as its immediate predecessor — defense.
Through three games, Bangor has yielded just 126 points, or 42 per game.
“It’s just effort really,” said Westrich, who anticipated his way to a game-high six steals to go with 14 points. “Our goal is to always keep it under 50 points. If we keep teams under 50 we feel like we’re going to come out of it with a ‘W’ almost 100 percent of the time.”
Martin’s presence in the middle also served as a deterrent to Windham’s interior offense, and the 0-3 Eagles made just 5 of 21 3-point attempts.
Bangor also got a solid defensive contribution off the bench from sophomore Max Clark, who made three early steals to help Bangor move out to a 29-21 halftime advantage.
“From this game we have some things we can clean up, especially in that first quarter,” Bangor coach Brad Libby said. “I’m happy we held them to 42, but there’s always things we can improve upon at the defensive end of the floor.”
Bangor complemented its defensive effort with its offensive big three.
Martin made 10 of 16 shots from the field and 7 of 8 free throws to combine with Westrich and junior forward Andrew Szwez (12 points) for 53 points after that trio had scored 50 in each of the team’s first two victories at Portland and Lewiston.
“Sam had the hot hand tonight,” Westrich said. “I really didn’t make my 3s so we pounded it in to him and he had a fair amount. Whoever’s got the hot hand, that’s who we’re going to hit.”
Bangor managed just one point during the game’s first 4 minutes and 50 seconds before Martin scored in the low post off an assist from Clark to pull the Rams within 6-3.
Martin was just getting started.
After Westrich scored after stealing a Windham inbounding pass and Szwez put back an offensive rebound to give Bangor its first lead at 7-6, Martin worked the lane for the Rams’ next 14 points. That run included three putbacks, two baseline moves and layups off feeds from Szwez and sophomore guard Joey Morrison as Bangor built a 21-13 lead midway through the second quarter.
Martin had 17 points by intermission on 7 of 10 shooting.
“I’ve just gotten out to a hot start in every single game,” said Martin, the transfer from Orono. “The guards have been doing a great job of getting me the ball and we just have so much intensity on the defensive end. I just love playing with these guys.”
Bangor quickly extended its lead to double figures in the second half before Ivan Kaffell (team-high 11 points) buried three straight 3-pointers to help rally Windham within 39-33 midway through the third quarter.
A free throw and a fadeaway jumper from the lane by Westrich ended a 7-0 Windham run. Morrison followed with a pullup jumper and Westrich added two more free throws to restore Bangor to a 46-33 cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Bangor’s run grew to 11-0 on two Martin free throws and a drive by Westrich — who matched Martin’s 10 second-half points — as the Rams pushed their advantage to 50-33 less than two minutes into the final period.
Bangor, the only remaining undefeated team in Class AA North, is idle until hosting Brewer on Dec. 20.