AUGUSTA — Prior to Friday night’s game, Cony High School boys basketball coach TJ Maines called it a must win. The Rams lost their first two games and, in the tough Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, did not want to drop a third.

“Even if you’re in the games, if you don’t win, you feel like there’s something wrong. I didn’t think there’s something wrong with us. I just thought we needed to be a little tougher and be able to play harder for a longer period,” Maines said. “I thought tonight we did that.”

Did they ever. The Rams pulled away from Lawrence in the third quarter, blowing open a close game to take a 73-49 win.

Cony is 1-2, while Lawrence is 0-2.

“The first two games, we played well, we just couldn’t quite finish it off. It feels great to put a whole game together,” said Cony senior Liam Stokes, who scored eight of his 17 points during an 12-0 Cony run in the fourth quarter.

“Cony played faster than us. They beat us to loose balls, 50/50 balls, and when you do that consistently, you’re creating opportunities for yourself that we were no longer creating for ourselves,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said.

The keys for the Rams were a strong transition game, ball movement, and defensive pressure which helped force 21 Lawrence turnovers. Ahead 38-30 at halftime, Cony opened the second half with a 17-4 run to push the lead to 55-34.

“I thought in transition, we ran the floor really well and got some easy baskets. We were really unselfish,” Maines said. “The hallmark of these guys coming up was, they were always unselfish. They don’t care who scores, they just want Cony to score.”

TJ Cusick scored 11 of his game-high 18 points for Cony in the third quarter. When Stokes sank a pair of free throws with 5:01 left in the game, the Rams had their biggest lead of the night, 69-40.

“Even when they doubled the ball, we found the open man, and we got a lot of easy baskets. Those are easy baskets we didn’t get in the first two games,” Stokes said.

The Rams’ disruptive defense led to 15 steals.

“We were pressing the whole game. It wasn’t just ball pressure, it was getting into those passes, getting into passing games,” Stokes.

“The game got away from us. (Cony) played their tails off and they were flying around the court,” Pellerin said.

Tyler Tardiff added 11 points for Cony, while Ben Leet scored 10. Matt Murray had seven rebounds for the Rams.

Mason Cooper led Lawrence with 15 points. Dustin Simpson-Bragg added 12 points for the Bulldogs.

“Lawrence is a measuring stick all the time, and it feels good to have our guys play that well,” Maines said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM