At Milo, Isaiah Bess scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Penquis defeated Lee Academy 53-42 in a key Class C boys basketball game at Oakes Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
Penquis, ranked second in Eastern C, is now 12-1 after its second victory of the season over the Pandas.
Lee, ranked third in the division, falls to 9-4.
Penquis never trailed after spotting Lee a 1-0 lead, but never was it easy for coach Tony Hamlin’s club against the taller Lee squad.
But Bess, despite being the focus of the Pandas’ triangle-and-two defense along with teammate Trevor Lyford, found opportunities to generate offense in the open court after turnovers or in the Penquis transition game.
The 6-foot-3 junior forward shot 10 of 18 from the field and added seven free throw to provide the Patriots the offense they needed, while Penquis used a 2-3 zone defense to relegate Lee’s offense to the perimeter, where the Pandas made just 3 of 18 3-point attempts.
Senior point guard Tyler Pelletier added seven points — on 7-of-8 free-throw shooting — along with five assists and four rebounds as part of a solid floor game for the Patriots, while senior forward Cody Herbest had five points and seven rebounds.
Senior guard Julian Diggs led Lee with 17 points and six rebounds, while junior forward Cherif Fall crashed the offensive backboards for 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Bess scored 15 points in the first half to help stake Penquis to a 22-15 lead, then scored twice in the opening 40 seconds of the third quarter after two Lee turnovers to expand the Patriots’ advantage to double digits.
But Lee wouldn’t go away, getting a five-point play of sorts when Fall was fouled as he scored an inside basket and Diggs converted a three-point play after he rebounded the miss of Fall’s free throw to cut the deficit to 26-20.
And when Penquis stretched its lead back out to 39-26 after a fadeaway jumper and a fast-break three-point play by Bess, Diggs responded with a 3-pointer and a fast-break three-point play of his own to draw Lee within 39-32 by the end of the third quarter.
Another fast-break layup, this time by Lee’s Alpie Erkin, closed the gap to 39-34 15 seconds into the final period, but the Pandas went scoreless for the next 3½ minutes as Penquis scored seven unanswered points – a 3-pointer by Jason Durant and four free throws, to reassume command with a 46-34 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Lee got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.