AUGUSTA — Who says sequels are never as good as the originals?

The Cony and Gardiner boys basketball teams met for another instant classic Thursday night, again featuring one team getting out to a big lead, the other charging back and both teams having chances to ice the hard-fought victory late.

This time, it was the Rams rallying back. But once again, it was the Tigers hanging on.

Gardiner took its final lead on a free throw with under two minutes to go, then withstood three straight Cony scoring chances in the final minute to emerge with a 71-70 victory, its second straight over the Rams after a similarly dramatic 82-80 win in December.

“This is huge,” said junior forward Cole Heaberlin, who led Gardiner’s tenacious post presence with eight points and 12 rebounds. “That’s a team that was not too far behind, just beat Hampden. Whenever we play Cony, it’s pretty personal. It’s a big rivalry game, 100 years plus. Especially in basketball, I think it’s getting bigger and bigger.”

Cole Lawrence led the Tigers (6-3) with 15 points off the bench, while Isaiah Magee and Collin Foye had 11 apiece. Jordan Roddy’s 20 points led the Rams (4-6), who trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, while Taylor Heath and Austin Parlin had nine each.

“My hat’s off to them. We came back on them, they could have caved in,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “I hope like crazy we get to see them in the playoffs, it’s what I would love. It would be great for this area.”

Especially if said third showdown were to be as good as the first two. The first game featured a winning putback by Connor McGuire in the closing seconds to cap a Gardiner rally, and the rematch again looked like a runaway early as the Tigers took a 43-30 lead early in the third quarter.

The Rams battled back, however, taking their first lead of the second half when freshman Simon McCormick stole the ball and went in alone to put Cony up 64-63 with 3:35 to play. The teams swapped leads three more times, and with 1:43 to go, Magee drew a foul on a drive to the basket. He missed the first shot but made the second to break a 70-all tie, and though Cony turned the ball over on its next possession, Roddy gathered a rebound on Gardiner’s next trip down, allowing the Rams to go for the win with the clock ticking down into the final minute of play.

Gardiner didn’t give up anything easy, forcing Cony to go for jumpers, but Bryan Stratton and Amahde Carter gathered offensive rebounds to keep the Rams’ hopes alive. Roddy pulled up for a straight-on 3-pointer, but his momentum was carrying him left and the shot was off the mark. Cony fouled to send Eli Kropp (six rebounds) to the line with 4 seconds to go, and though he missed both free throws, Magee was ready with the rebound to end the game.

“We just kept our heads up, kept our heads in the game, kept the intensity,” Lawrence said. “We knew what we had to do. We had to run our offense, we had to get back-door cuts and lay it in, we had to get easy layups and ball movements.”

That’s two games now between the rivals determined by a total of three points — and Tigers coach Jason Cassidy said it’s not a coincidence.

“Obviously, we match up well together,” said Cassidy, whose team prevailed despite the absence of McGuire due to an ankle injury. “I’m proud of my guys stepping in. … Everybody’s been working hard all year, and they all contributed to this game.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM