READFIELD — It wasn’t always pretty, but as far as the Maranacook boys basketball team was concerned, it didn’t have to be.

The Black Bears turned defense into offense with regularity during a key stretch in the second quarter, opening up en route to a 63-33 season-opening Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference win over Erskine Academy on Friday night. Senior guard Mitchell Root led Maranacook with 16 points, while Aric Belanger and Cash McClure each added seven points in a spread-out attack.

Erskine was led by a nine-point effort from junior Nick Hayden, all but two of which came in the fourth quarter, by which time the Maranacook bench had emptied to the bottom.

“We just got together and knew we had to tighten up, because the refs were calling everything tonight,” Root said. “In practice the other day, we were going through drills and we found that intensity within the team. It really helps when the team is a family, and that’s what we are.”

An eight-point Black Bear lead with just over six and a half minutes remaining in the second quarter ballooned courtesy of a 17-5 Maranacook run to close out the half.

The visiting Eagles turned the ball over 16 times in the first half, including on six straight possessions during Maranacook’s game-changing second-quarter run. They finished with 29 turnovers for the night.

That lack of ball care wasn’t helped by a poor shooting percentage, either.

Erskine failed to connect for a field goal over the final 11:32 of the first half, part of a woeful 15.4 shooting percentage before the break (2 for 13). It didn’t get much better in the second half, either, as the Eagles ended up shooting an even 25 percent from the floor (9 for 36).

“If you don’t make shots, this game’s not a very fun game,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said. “Yeah, they played good defense, but we got wide-open looks. We missed 13 free throws tonight. Hat off to them, they played well. But I’ve got nine seniors, and I didn’t see a whole lot of leaders wanting to step up and lead this team tonight.”

Even in a game where more than 40 fouls were called on a start-and-stop night full of whistles, and foul trouble to starters McClure and Duncan Rogers limited the Black Bears’ rotation, Maranacook found a way to play a high-intensity defense to jumpstart its offensive game.

“A lot comes out of that (defense),” Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt said. “A lot of energy, a lot of turnovers, and hopefully turnovers that lead to fast-break points or some sort of transition points. It really is the key to this team.”

Leading 33-13 at the half, the Black Bears scored eight of the first 10 points in the third quarter. Root was a catalyst, cutting to the basket for layups, hitting short jumpers out of the half-court offense and beating Erskine to the basket off dribble drives for hoops.

He scored eight of Maranacook’s 19 third-quarter points, and his night — as well as the nights of all five starters for the Black Bears — was over as the fourth quarter began.

“I like to drive a lot,” Root said. “I like to drive and kick, too, if it’s open. That’s what teams don’t expect.”

“(Root) set a tone,” Schmidt added. “We chose him as the player of the game. … Because he set the tone, played smart, played unselfish, we chose him. He played a really good game.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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