FARMINGDALE — It’s cliche, perhaps, but it’s often said that good defense can spark a team’s offense.
The fifth-seeded Hall-Dale boys basketball team served as Exhibit A on Thursday, turning to a full-court press midway through the first quarter and parlaying it into a runaway 82-42 win over No. 12 Dirigo in a Class C South preliminary round game at Penny Gym. The Bulldogs (14-5), who advance to face No. 4 North Yarmouth Academy on Monday in the regional quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center, finished off the Cougars with five players in double figures on a torrid 56 percent (32 of 57) shooting from the floor.
Sixth man Jett Boyer came off the bench to provide the spark early in the opening period and ended with a team-high 16 points — all but three of those in the first half.
“Me coming off the bench gives us other scoring opportunities,” Boyer said. “It’s just playing with pride, I guess. When we get it going, we get it going and we don’t stop.”
Boyer, a junior, was a crucial component in a 17-3 Hall-Dale run to close out the first quarter.
“There’s no shortage of guys who like to shoot the basketball for us,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “Jett’s a good player. I think on a lot of teams, he’d be the starter and he’d be the focal point. He’d get himself 25 shots a night (elsewhere), but he really leads us in our balanced attack.”
While Boyer was lighting things up from the perimeter on a perfect 4-for-4 night from 3-point range, sophomore big man Ashtyn Abbott was dominant in the paint. The 6-foot-1 forward scored 14 points, but more importantly he grabbed 10 rebounds, often keeping Dirigo (5-14) from finding any second-chance buckets.
Junior point guard Tyler Nadeau added 12 points in the win, while Austin Stebbins and Alex Byron finished with 10 points apiece. All told, Hall-Dale made 11 3-pointers in the victory.
“As a coach, that’s exactly where I want us to be,” Ranslow said of the Bulldogs’ balanced scoring. “It’s easier to contain a group that’s got one or two primary focuses, versus a team that’s got five or six kids that can really score.”
Trailing early by a 7-4 score, Hall-Dale went to the full-court press and immediately turned it into Cougar turnovers and transition baskets on three consecutive possessions to build a 15-7 advantage with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“We had good energy,” Abbott said. “Defense is one of our big things, and when we get it going — we really get it going. I think it’s a good momentum shift for us, Good defensive stops turn into good offensive (possessions).”
The defensive intensity never let up, either out of the press or the half-court zone, and Hall-Dale was able to pile up point in rapid succession. The Bulldogs made 5-of-6 field goals to close out the first-quarter run.
After Dirigo’s Luke Leuder scored off a layup to pull the Cougars to within 10 at 24-14 with 4:45 left until halftime, Dirigo didn’t connect for another field goal of its own until Cooper Chaisson (20 points) made a short jumper with two minutes to play in the third quarter.
But with Hall-Dale leading 60-18 at that point, it was all over.
“It’s hard to argue with the effort tonight on both ends of the court,” Ranslow said. “I thought our defense really sparked our offense, and then we started shooting it and sharing it. When we’re doing that, it’s like, ‘Oh, there’s another 5-9 kid shooting threes. They’re all over the place.’ ”
Travis Barrett — 621-5621