AUGUSTA — Greeting one of his former players before Thursday night’s game, University of Maine at Augusta head coach Jim Ford recalled the last time — in fact, the only time before Thursday night — one of his Moose reached the 2,000-career point milestone.

“Remember when Deon Cheers was trying to get his 2,000th? He couldn’t hit the rim,” Ford said. “He had no points at halftime.”

Needing just two points in the game against University of Maine at Machias to join Cheers in the exclusive 2,000-point/1,000 rebound club, Clinton native and Lawrence High School alumnus Keith Chesley found the rim on his first shot and the net on his second at the Augusta Civic Center.

A little over four minutes into the game, Chesley took a high-low pass underneath the hoop from Brandon Rogers, his best friend on the team and the only other senior, and powered it up to join Cheers in the rare air.

“It’s just fitting, two guys who have been here a long time,” Chesley said. “It was nice that way. I love Brandon like a brother.”

Officials stopped the game briefly so the Moose could acknowledge the accomplishment and so Ford could present the 6-foot-1 forward with a basketball commemorating it. The Moose went on to pick up a crucial Yankee Small College Conference win, 100-81, over the Clippers.

Chesley’s extended family led the cheers from the stands. His immediate family, led by father Greg, mother Lori and sister Hunter, missed the first basket because it was Senior Night for Hunter, a forward on the unbeaten Lawrence girls team. They arrived just before halftime to celebrate with Keith and watch him and the Moose pull away from UMaine-Machias in the second half.

Greg, who played for UMA in the late 1980s-early 90s and is also in the school record books with 1,275 career points, said his son learned the hard way the power of perseverance.

“The work ethic has really come from the injuries he’s had to deal with coming up through,” said Greg, who is an assistant coach at Lawrence. “He’s had six orthopedic surgeries.”

The surgeries started in middle school and ultimately caused Keith to miss three full basketball seasons between middle school and high school.

In middle school, the surgeries were to correct OCD, a condition that affects blood flow and cartilage in his elbow and knee joints. As a high school freshman, he missed the season after having his lower back fused. He returned for his sophomore year, then had to have it fused again and missed his junior year.

Chesley thought he had a lot of basketball left in him when he graduated from Lawrence, yet a four-year career seemed unlikely.

“All of the adversity that I went through in high school – I only played one year of varsity basketball – but that was with Mike McGee, so it was a lot,” Chesley said. “It’s been a blessing, really. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my teammates, my friends, my family.

Ford estimated Chesley takes 100 extra shots after most practices, and he and Rogers spend a lot of time at Buker Community Center in Augusta and Gilman Street Basketball Club in Waterville.

Rogers, who had a monster game Thursday with 38 points and 28 rebounds, is also a member of the 1,000-point/1,000-rebound group. In fact, he and Chesley both grabbed their 1,000th rebound in the same game earlier this season, against Vermont Tech.

“That was fun,” Rogers said. “We’re both close off the court as well, so that was cool for both of us to get that at the same time. (Two thousand points) is a great milestone and an awesome accomplishment.”

Chesley proved he’d be able to pile up the points as early as his freshman year. He came to UMA as the prototypical Mike McGee-molded Lawrence big man — with solid fundamentals and not afraid to take on opponents as much as half-a-foot taller in the paint.

It was clear the following year Chesley had taken his game to a new level, Ford said.

“What has improved so much through his career is his outside shooting,” Ford said. “When he was a freshman, I didn’t mind him shooting a 3-point shot on occasion, but I wanted him to work more inside. When his sophomore year arrived, he’d become so consistent as a 3-point shot.”

As a senior, Chesley is a model of consistency no matter where he’s shooting. He leads the Moose averaging 23.1 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor, over 40 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the foul line.

All of this while averaging nearly 38 minutes per game, which may be an even more remarkable achievement given what he had to endure growing up.

Next for Chesley is the school’s all-time scoring mark of 2,029 held by Cheers. Chesley had 25 points Thursday and the Moose have three regular-season games remaining for him to score seven points to stand alone.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33