WATERVILLE — The Thomas College men put a lot of pride into defending their home court. And even though the University of Maine at Farmington was short-handed, the Beavers were still the only remaining unbeaten team in the North Atlantic Conference when they faced Thomas on Saturday afternoon.

The Beavers brought a big group of fans, and Thomas got a little bit too caught up in the atmosphere a couple times. But the Terriers took care of business down the stretch and knocked off UMF, 81-73.

Jarrad DeVaughn led Thomas (8-5 overall, 5-3 NAC) with 17 points, including 11 in the second half. UMF was led by Maranacook graduate Kevin Leary with 19 points and Pet Sumner with 18.

The Beavers were playing without center Ben Johnson (team-high 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds per game) and point guard Dan Kane (5.5 assists per game). UMF coach Dick Meader said Johnson is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, and Kane is out indefinitely with a groin injury. The Beavers used only nine players, and sophomore Garrett Clemmer of Windham played a season-high 20 minutes and scored eight points.

“Obviously, that hurts,” Meader said. “But it gave other players a chance to get action and play well, or not play so well. We did a pretty good job. We were just immature in a lot of situations — hurrying and getting away from the fundamentals that we work on every day. Pressure does that to you.”

Of the nine players UMF (7-5 overall, 7-1 NAC) used on Saturday, seven were sophomores. The Beavers were harrassed into 25 turnovers, but still held their own in the first half. UMF hit six 3-pointers before the break, and often broke down the Terriers defense for uncontested layups. At halftime, the Beavers held a 39-36 lead.

In the second half, Thomas had much more success driving to the basket and scoring from in close. With the score tied at 44, DeVaughn hit two baskets and Ryan Newton made a fast-break layup. Those three shots were from about a combined 4 feet out, but they gave the Terriers a 50-44 lead.

“In the first half, we just didn’t finish,” Thomas coach T.J. Maines said. “We took 15 more shots than they did in the first half, and we’re losing by three points. I thought we made plays more difficult than they needed to be (in the first half). Instead of catching and finishing, we were catching and trying to hit contact and spin off.”

“We’ve got to get over and take away the gaps, and we didn’t do a very good job of that,” Meader said. “But that’s because their strength is that, so they do it well.”

Thomas took off from there, and with 10:27 to play, the Terriers fans nearly blew the roof off the gym when 5-foot-11 guard Antonio Juco capped a steal and fast break with a one-handed dunk. Juco celebrated a little too much and was hit with a technical foul, but the Beavers missed both free throws.

“That’s the first time Antonio’s dunked the ball, it could be in his life, in a game,” Maines said. “He’s excited. He’s a kid. He’s playing a game. He learned from it. The referees made the right call.”

The Terriers extended their lead to 11 at 62-51, but the Beavers got as close as three with 7:06 left when Sumner hit back-to-back 3-pointers — the second one a pull-up jumper on a fast break. But with tight defense played by Thomas guard Franklin Salvador and defensive help, Sumner didn’t attempt another shot in the game.

“Frankie did a good job, but we also switched,” Maines said. “We want to get two guys there if we have to. Pet’s a terrific shooter, and a really, really good player, and you want to try to eliminate some of the plays that he can make.”

UMF is still in first place in the conference, so you could make the argument that Thomas needed this game more than the Beavers. The teams will meet at least once more, in the regular season final Feb. 18 in Farmington.

“They’re still a good team,” Maines said. “We feel we should win any game we play at home, and we feel like we played well enough to win. With or without Johnson and Kane — they’re both really good players — we’ve got to play the way that we need to play, and today we were able to do that.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

 


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