AUGUSTA — Like it or not, lofty expectations have been placed on the Hall-Dale boys basketball team this season.

The Bulldogs return the bulk of a team that finished 14-6 in Class C South last year and appear primed for a deep run into the postseason. That doesn’t mean every game will be a cakewalk. Tuesday at the Augusta Civic Center, they struggled through three periods before pulling away from Mountain Valley Conference opponent Madison for a 61-42 victory.

Hall-Dale is 5-0 in MVC play while Madison falls to 2-2.

This game was played as part of the 12-team Maine Gold Rush tournament and, unlike the exhibitions played by the other 10 teams, was a countable regular-season game. The team was also scheduled to play Monmouth later Tuesday evening with the winner advancing to a championship game.

Hall-Dale raced to a 22-9 first-quarter lead behind Ashtyn Abbott and Alec Byron. Abbott scored seven of his 13 points in the quarter while Byron scored six of his game-high 16. Madison, however, stormed back in the second period while Hall-Dale went cold. Guards Evan Bess and Sean Whalen combined for nine points while Hall-Dale didn’t score a hoop for the first five minutes of the quarter.

“We came out flat like we always do,” Hall-Dale point guard Tyler Nadeau said. “We kind of got sloppy. We had eight turnovers, I believe, in the first half and that’s kind of uncharacteristic for us.”

Nadeau closed the second quarter with a pair of jumpers from the right side, the second a 3-pointer to give Hall-Dale a 29-22 lead at the break. He finished with 15 points, including three timely 3-pointers.

“I thought he kept us in it to be honest,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “He hit big shots that kept us separated.”

Added Nadeau: “Primarily I’m supposed to be getting people the ball in their spots where they can score. This is the most I’ve shot all season.”

Madison cut the lead to a point (36-35) on Jacob Meader’s layup early in the fourth quarter, but Nadeau hit a long 3 to ignite a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 45-35. Madison had done a good job solving a number of Hall-Dale zone presses and half-court defenses, but fell apart a little in the fourth quarter.

“Every time we got it to three of four points it seemed like the Nadeau kid hit a big shot,” Madison coach Jason Furbush said. “He’s a great leader we knew that going in. He’s a great point guard.”

Hall-Dale’s defense came alive in the fourth quarter, forcing 10 turnovers that led to a series of easy layups. Byron scored eight in the quarter while Abbott added six.

“We were playing a little matchup, run and jump,” Ranslow said of his defense. “We mixed it up a little bit, but it doesn’t really matter. You got to play. Top to bottom I thought we were inconsistent. In the end we found a way to get it done.”

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The tournament is in its second year and includes a 12-team girls session which runs Wednesday at the Civic Center. It’s the brainchild of former Cony coach Bruce Hunt and former Winthrop coach Dave Poulin. The pair have collaborated on the Gold Rush summer camp, which runs four consecutive weekends at Colby College and is entering its 20th year. Last year 130 teams from Maine, the Canadian Maritimes and Massachusetts participated in the camp.

“We have so many teams coming to camp, with a lot of the playoffs being held here, we wanted to open it up for teams to play at least one and as many as three games here,” Poulin said.

The tournament is divided in two six-team sessions with a championship game at the end of each. Oxford Hills won the first session, defeating Messalonskee 66-45 in the final. The second game of the session included a matchup between Maranacook and neighboring Winthrop who don’t meet in the regular season. Maranacook won that one utilizing its pressing, uptempo style.

“We’re so deep and we have so many good athletic kids who love to compete,” Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt said. “One of the biggest things is our thought process that a game is 32 minutes and it’s not going to be over early. It may not look pretty for the whole game but, hopefully, in the course of a 32 minute game, we can wear teams down.”

Former Mr. Maine Basketball Ryan Martin, who played for Schmidt at Maranacook and helped the Black Bears to two state championships, was back on the floor Tuesday as a first-year head coach for Sanford.

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