READFIELD — The Maranacook boys basketball team is tough to beat in transition. Run with the Black Bears and you better be hitting your shots.
Gardiner didn’t hit much of anything in the first half and, despite a strong second half, the Tigers never caught the Bears in 72-57 loss Friday night in a battle of Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B teams bound for different postseason tournaments.
There were plenty of Class C coaches and scouts in the crowd Friday night to watch a Maranacook (13-4) team that will play in their tournament despite playing a Class B schedule. They saw an athletic scoring team that likes to run and shoot 3-pointers.
“We love running up and down the court, just trying to out-run the other team,” Maranacook junior Cam Brochu said.
Brochu finished with 12 points and nine rebounds while Maranacook senior Taylor Wilbur overcame a slow start to finish with a game-high 28 points and sophomore Kent Mohlar scored 23 points. Junior Brad Weston led Gardiner (10-7) with 16 points and eight rebounds while sophomore Jordan Lamb scored 10. The Tigers got off to a horrible start, scoring just eight points in the first quarter, six in the second and trailed 31-14 at the half.
“We took more shots than they did in the first half,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “We were missing bunnies in there and they got us in transition. We got easy looks inside we just couldn’t knock them down early.”
Mohlar, who missed the first meeting between the teams, scored 13 points in the first half to lead Maranacook. Coach Rob Schmidt sat his starters for the final four minutes of the second quarter but Gardiner failed to take advantage. Led by Lamb, the Tigers came out firing in the second half. Joe Harnett and Weston hit 3-pointers and suddenly Gardiner trailed 35-24. But Wilbur, who leads the KVAC in scoring, was just warming up after missing several shots in the first half.
“I got a little frustrated,” Wilbur said. “But I know when the second half rolls around something’s going to go well.” It did, as Wilbur scored 10 points in the final four minutes of the third to help Maranacook hold off the Tigers. He hit two of his four 3-pointers in that quarter, including one from several feet behind the arc at the top of the circle.
“I can’t tell,” Wilbur said of his long-distance shots. “I just look at the hoop.”
The Tigers cut the lead to 47-38 before Wilbur’s deep 3. Mohlar added a pair of free throws to make it 52-40 going into the fourth quarter. Wilbur, Mohlar and Brochu dominated the scoring in the fourth quarter with Brochu and Mohlar each grabbing rebounds at one point and going end to end for layups.
“We definitely want to get out and run,” Schmidt said. “We don’t feel confident in a half-court offense. I think we got a little shooting happy for a stretch in the first half. It’s a fine line. It’s a really tough thing to give them the green light to shoot when they’re open yet take good shots when we need to.”
The Black Bears finish their regular season at home Tuesday against Morse and a win would likely put them in the top four in Western Maine Class C and allow them to miss a prelim game. Gardiner finishes at home Wednesday against Medomak Valley.