AUGUSTA — There’s no big secret to the Lawrence basketball team’s success. The Bulldogs pressure the ball and overplay the passing lanes in hopes of forcing turnovers or bad shots.
That pressure eventually got to Cony on Friday afternoon as the Rams managed just six points in the fourth quarter and lost 53-39 at the Augusta Civic Center.
The game was part of the Capital City Hoop Classic but also counted as a regular-season game, replacing the scheduled meeting between the teams at Cony on Jan. 8. Lawrence is 5-1 in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A play while Cony is 2-4.
For three quarters it was close. The teams were tied at the half and Bulldogs led 35-33 entering the fourth quarter. Lawrence pushed the lead to seven as Nick Noiles opened the fourth quarter with his third 3-pointer of the game and Matt Saunders followed with a layup. Things were never quite the same after that as the Rams struggled against the Bulldogs’ three-quarter-court trap.
“Coach (Mike McGee) definitely emphasizes defense,” Saunders said. “We just needed to work harder. We got in the passing lanes and really put more pressure on them which helped a lot.”
All five starters scored in the fourth quarter for the Bulldogs, Noiles and Xavier Lewis each finished with 11 points while Spencer Carey scored 10, Saunders eight and Mason Travers seven.
“We’re definitely not at our best,” Saunders said. “We’ve had one loss against Hampden so we know we have a ways to go.”
The Bulldogs did a good job denying the ball to Cony’s big men, Ben Lucas and Alex Neill, in the second half. Lucas scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in the first half while Neill scored six of his eight.
“We were able to force their offense out more,” McGee said. “We said if the ball goes to the wing and Lucas and Neill are able to get the ball inside we’re in trouble.”
Lucas scored eight of Cony’s 10 points in the first quarter while Neill scored the other hoop as the Rams trailed 12-10. The Bulldogs were a little more balanced and were able to get layups from Lewis and Aaron LaFrance and later in the half from Carey and Saunders.
“We just put in a new offense,” Saunders said. “It’s working better, we just need to execute more. Our last offense didn’t emphasize our athleticism.”
Lucas, who hauled down 12 rebounds, finished the half with a three-point play to pull the Rams into a 21-all tie. They stayed close in the third quarter and took a two-point lead on Ben Leet’s 3-pointer, but Lawrence’s defensive pressure eventually took its toll.
“We had 25 turnovers,” Cony coach Tim Bonsant said. “My guards haven’t played that bad all year. They did play good defensively but we were just picking the ball up in the corner of the court. It was just basic basketball.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638