GARDINER — After losing the second of two regular season games to rival Cony on their home floor, the Gardiner Tigers seethed, watched more film than an Oscars voter and waited.

The seventh-seeded Tigers got the 10th-seeded Rams back in John A. Bragoli Gym on Wednesday night and showed they’d put the time to good use by attacking early, pressing on the pedal harder when they lost their best player, Jordan Lamb, to a broken nose late in the first quarter and rarely letting up while rolling to a 75-51 win in a Class A North preliminary.

The Tigers (8-11) will face No. 2 Brewer in the quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Cony finishes its season 7-12.

Brian Dunn scored a game-high 20 points while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out six assists for the Tigers. Eli Fish added 16 points and five rebounds and sophomore point guard Isaiah Magee netted seven points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

“We were looking at the film. The first film (of the 54-52 Cony home win), they ate us up with that press. The second (of Cony’s 60-59 win at Gardiner), we were able to get to the rim,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “…You have to get them early in that press or they’re going to get you. We were able to break that, get in the middle and get some layups.”

“Our coach told us if we take it inside, the outside shots would start opening up and that’s what happened,” Fish said. “It just carried us the rest of the way.”

The key to not only breaking down the press but exploiting it once they did was the backcourt trio of Dunn, Fish and Magee.

“They played a perfect game tonight,” Cassidy said.

“On the backside of our defensive set, the rotations weren’t good,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “They made a couple of shots and we didn’t make shots. It’s the story all year for us — when we score early on in the game, we get our feet under us and for whatever reason we play better defensively.”

Before a boisterous bipartisan sellout crowd, Gardiner knocked the Rams’ feet out from under them with a 13-3 start, capped by a Fish 3-pointer. At the other end, the Tigers employed a 3-2 zone to try to keep Jordan Roddy and Nijual Davis from slashing to the rim.

Davis and Matt Murray led the Rams with 12 points apiece. Roddy had 10 points.

“We wanted to force them to shoot threes and not penetrate and get open looks. I think in the first half we got a little carried away with fouls,” Fish said.

When they weren’t fouled or able to get into the paint, the Rams, who had Roddy and T.J. Cusick (six points) battling ankle sprains and no Reid Shostak (violation of team rules), never had a hot hand develop from the 3-point line.

“Without T.J. being able to get that stepback like he has when he’s healthy, we were able to get on Carter Cleaves (six points) and that took them out of their rhythm a little bit,” Cassidy said. “He’s been hot from the corner lately and we were able to take that away.”

Late in the first quarter, Roddy was able to find Murray on the baseline for a 3-point play to pull the Rams within five. On the play, Lamb and Murray collided underneath. Lamb went to the locker room a short time later with blood coming out of his nose and didn’t return until late in the second quarter.

Instead of backing off without their 6-foot-5 finisher, the Tigers kept attacking the hoop, and started to find shooters wide open on the perimeter of a collapsing defense. Fish knocked down another 3-pointer to make it 18-10 Tigers at the end of the first and start a 12-0 Gardiner run that carried over into the second.

Dunn made it 20-10 with a hoop, then Hunter Chasse (11 points) followed a Connor McGuire block with a 3-pointer. A drive from Fish and jumper by Dunn made it 27-10 before Cusick finally got Cony back on the board with a steal and 3-pointer.

“We weren’t going to change the gameplan (without Lamb),” Cassidy said. “The only thing that changed was he was on the finishing end of all of those layups early, but other guys stepped up. Hunter got some big rebounds. Eli probably had the most rebounds he’s had all year. Eli Kropp got some big rebounds and our other guards (Dunn and Magee), they both rebound.”

“We knew their defense,” Magee said. “I believe we have real good team chemistry, so we know how to get to our big man, how to get to the middle, how to get everywhere.”

Gardiner controlled the boards to limit Cony’s second chances and had an answer any time the Rams started a run. Cony never got closer than 12 points in the second half.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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