GARDINER — After a delay to start the season, things may be looking up for the Skowhegan boys basketball team.

The Indians couldn’t have looked much better than they did Thursday night.

Skowhegan dominated from start to finish, utilizing an offense predicated on patience and ball movement to overwhelm Gardiner, 58-46, for an impressive Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference road victory.

“We’ve really spent the last three days talking about what we can do if we’re patient,” said coach Tom Nadeau, who got 19 points from Cam Barnes, 17 from Garrett McSweeney and 58 percent shooting from the field from his players. “Catching and facing, not putting the ball on the floor immediately. Let things develop offensively and trust that things are going to work out. Tonight, we did an excellent job of that.”

The Indians offense seemed immune to slumps and cold stretches. Skowhegan (2-2) led wire-to-wire and jumped out to a 19-8 first-quarter lead, and there was little Gardiner (2-2) could do to stem the attack enough to effectively chip away.

“We got out-coached tonight. I didn’t coach them to bring enough energy, it was on me,” Tigers coach Jason Cassidy said. “I didn’t have them ready to bring energy. We scouted them twice, we had a gameplan, but I just didn’t have the right approach on me.”

The Indians lost two of their first three games to open the season, but came to Bragoli Memorial Gym eager and ready to make up for it. Skowhegan leisurely worked its way around the offensive end, frequently taking 30 to 45 seconds to zip the ball around the perimeter. The result was a Gardiner defense that inevitably shifted toward the ball, leaving Skowhegan shooters open for rally-killing jumpers.

“We haven’t been playing well offensively, and tonight, we did much better,” Nadeau said. “It’s been frustrating, we’re dealing with some injuries and some inconsistencies with what we want to try to get. Tonight, we showed a better understanding of what we’re trying to get.”

The ball movement also allowed the Indians to attack the paint. As Gardiner players raced around trying to keep up with the moving ball handlers, that left unattended space under the basket, and Barnes and McSweeney took turns hitting each other from the perimeter on unchallenged cuts to the rim.

“They play with a certain level of energy,” said Nadeau, whose offense also got big contributions from Marcus Christopher (eight points) and Brendan Curran (six). “And when they play with a high level of energy, everybody feeds off of it. We need them to play with energy, and when they do, good things happen.”

Still, the Tigers weren’t without their chances to strike back. With 2:34 to go in the third quarter, Connor McGuire — who had 18 points and whose rebounding and post play was Gardiner’s biggest advantage of the night — worked his way in toward the basket for a short shot that cut the lead to 35-30 and gave the Tigers their best chance since midway through the second quarter.

It didn’t last. McSweeney found Barnes slashing to the basket, Curran hit McSweeney on an identical play and Curran finished off a fast-break layup after a Gardiner miss, making the score 41-30 and prompting Cassidy to call timeout with 1:12 left in the quarter. The three baskets were the first of five straight for Skowhegan to end the quarter and, in effect, the game as well.

“It put us back on our heels for the second time, and it’s hard to make them believe that they can come back from that,” Cassidy said. “I think it was great execution on their part, you’ve got to give them credit. I think it was poor execution on our defense, and that’s on me.

“They make you play defense for 45 seconds, and if you stand straight up, they’re going to have layups.”

Hunter Chasse had eight points for the Tigers and Kyle Johnson had seven, all of which came in the fourth and earned praise from Cassidy for the junior’s unwillingness to give in to the score.

“(Skowhegan) had some adversity to start the season, so they were mentally tough (Thursday),” Cassidy said. “We had a couple of bounces go our way at the beginning of the season, so we’re going to have to go back and dig and do what they did.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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