GARDINER — With big man Aaron Toman out with an ankle injury, the Gardiner boys basketball team had to find a way to minimize Leavitt’s advantage in the paint.

“We were down Toman, so we weren’t going to pound it inside,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said.

The solution? Run.

The Tigers played excellent transition basketball, particularly in the second quarter, when they pulled away to an 18-point halftime lead. That cushion was enough to withstand Leavitt’s second-half rally, and the Tigers took a 61-55 win at Bragoli Gym.

“We do fastbreak drills every practice, for 20 minutes to a half hour. (Cassidy) really stresses it,” said Tyler Jamison, who scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second quarter. “The more we run, the better we are.”

Gardiner (10-1) trailed 13-11 after one quarter, but once the Tigers got running, they began to roll. Gardiner outscored Leavitt (8-3) 28-8 in the quarter, and closed the frame with an 11-0 run, capped by Jamison’s buzzer beater, which gave the Tigers a 39-21 halftime lead.

“My shot was just feeling good, and I was feeling good. I knew I had to step it up because Toman was out. Things were going down for me,” Jamison said.

Added Cassidy: “I’ve been telling these guys since we lost to Medomak early in the season, if we’re going to compete with Leavitt, Medomak and Camden and Winslow, we’re going to have to develop a transition game. The kids really played it to a T tonight.”

Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway felt his team lacked intensity in the first half.

“In the second quarter, our defense was atrocious. They were getting great shots, and that was the difference,” Hathaway said. “They did a good job looking up the floor and moving it with the pass. But we didn’t sprint back like we should. We didn’t stop the ball. We let guys dribble all the way to the paint.”

The Hornets rallied in the third quarter by attacking the basket, getting to the free-throw line, and getting numerous second chances off offensive rebounds. Jordan Hersom, who won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s top high school football player Sunday, scored eight of his 18 points in the third quarter, when Leavitt cut Gardiner’s lead to 47-39.

“We settled for a lot of contested jump shots in the first half, and that’s not who we are. We need to get the ball in the paint,” Hathaway said.

With Toman out, the job of defending Hersom (16 rebounds, including 10 offensive) was shared by a few players, but Matt Hall (16 points, 14 rebounds) saw much of the duty.

“He’s a tough match to play in the post, but all you’ve got to do is play straight-up, play the defense you were taught to play, and box him out, because he’s tough on the rebounds,” Hall said.

Added Cassidy: “Matt Hall has been talking about this all week. This is what he wanted to do. He just led us out there tonight.”

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Tyler Walton and Andrew Middleton pulled the Hornets within four points, 49-45, early in the fourth quarter. Jake Palmer’s three-point play with 45 seconds left gave Gardiner a 60-51 lead, and sealed the game.

Palmer had 15 points for Gardiner. Tim Dow had 13 points for Leavitt.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


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