Although the winter weather pushed the game back a day, it won’t deter what could potentially be one of the best playoff games involving central Maine teams in the high school basketball tournament.
No. 7 Cony hosts No. 10 Erskine at 6 tonight in Augusta, the final preliminary game in the Class A North boys bracket. The Eagles (8-10) and Rams (9-9) are no strangers to each other. Both of their meetings during the regular season were decided by 10 points or less. Erskine beat Cony 70-61 back on Dec. 22. The Rams exacted revenge, edging the Eagles 42-40 in the final game of the regular season on Feb. 9.
Erskine showed well-rounded scoring in the first meeting. Jack Jowett scored 16 points, Brandon Soule added 13 points, while Andrew Browne finished with 12. Forward Noah Bonsant added 14 points and 13 rebounds. But even though the Eagles came away with the win that day, the Rams exposed a flaw, forcing 37 turnovers. It came back to haunt them when Cony took the second meeting, and it’s a flaw Erskine head coach Tim Bonsant said needs to be addressed for tonight’s contest.
“We know we need to take care of the ball against them,” Bonsant said. “They’ve got outstanding shooters and an outstanding shooter in Jordan Roddy. We’ve got to try to contain them and just take care of the ball against them. We’re averaging 20-something turnovers a game against them — I think we had a ton in the first (meeting). I think we had 21 or 22 in (the second game).”
On the flip side, Cony head coach TJ Maines said the Rams need to tighten their shooting.
“If we want to win, we’ve got to make shots,” Maines said. “We were 1 of 30 from (the 3-point line) the first three quarters and 1 of 11 from the foul line the last time we played them. Just the fact that we were able to win that game was pretty amazing with those two statistics.”
The game promises to be exciting, and not just on the court.
“I expect it to be a high-energy game. I expect there will be a lot of people there,” Bonsant said. “It’s just going to be a really fun central Maine basketball game atmosphere, and it’s great for the kids. When it gets right down to it, that’s what it’s about. It’s about the kids. Maybe making a lifetime memory playing in front of a huge crowd, and win or lose, giving it your best.”
The winner of the game will meet No. 2 seed Hampden (14-4) in the quarterfinals.
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The Winslow boys — the No. 6 seed in the Class B North bracket — may hold the higher seed in its prelim game Thursday night against No. 11 Maine Central Institute, but it won’t be an easy contest.
After starting the season 0-9, the Huskies (6-12) went 6-3 in its final nine games.
One of those six wins came against the Black Raiders (14-4) — a 51-49 contest on Jan. 31.
“They’re probably the best six-win team in the state right now,” Winslow coach Jared Browne said. “They’ve had a lot of injuries, a lot of kids out for a good part of the season. Now that they’ve got their full team back, they’re a very good team. Coming into the season, I thought they would be one of the better teams in our league.”
The regular season loss to MCI aside, the Black Raiders have had plenty of success during the season. Winslow — which beat MCI 58-52 in the first meeting on Dec. 13 — can attack with multiple scorers at any time. Whether it’s Jack Morneault, Spencer Miranda, Keanu Earle, among others, the Black Raiders have shown the ability to distribute to the hottest shooter.
It’s a strategy they will have to use once again against the Huskies.
“When teams prepare for us, they can’t really prepare for one guy,” Browne said. “Every guy in our lineup and every guy off our bench, they can score and are very well-rounded players. So if one guy is having an off night, it means another guy is going to have a big night. If we just play our game and play the way we’ve played this year with everybody contributing and everybody scoring, we’ll be in really good shape. This has been one of the most team oriented groups I’ve coached.”
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Two more area teams play in rescheduled games tonight, as No. 9 Brewer plays No. 8 Skowhegan in the Class A North bracket. The Indians (9-9) split the regular season series with the Witches (7-11). Skowhegan fell 53-46 to Brewer on Dec. 13 before taking the win in the rematch by a score of 65-59 on Jan. 10.
No. 5 Hall-Dale hosts No. 12 Dirigo in the Class C South boys bracket. The Bulldogs (13-5) beat the Cougars (5-13) 66-44 in a Dec. 13 regular season game.
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The Maine Principals’ Association tweaked the Class D South boys and girls slate over the next few days.
The Temple girls will now play at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and the Vinalhaven boys will play at 1 p.m., with both games at the Augusta Civic Center.
The new schedule allows the Vinalhaven boys and girls to play on the same day.
The Forest Hills boys will now play at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, instead of Saturday.
Dave Dyer — 621-5640