AUGUSTA — Ice cold in his first half of the season, Simon McCormick found the groove the Cony boys basketball team has been looking forward to seeing in the second.

McCormick scored 20 of his 24 points after halftime, leading Cony to a 66-55 victory over Lawrence as the basketball season kicked off Friday night.

“I think we attacked a little bit more, and stopped settling (in the second half),” coach T.J. Maines said. “I felt we got a little bit more aggressive getting to the rim, and offensive rebounding was a big key. … We did a really poor job in the first half, and in the second half, much better.”

McCormick led the Rams in scoring, while Dakota Dearborn had nine and freshmen Luke Briggs and Brayden Barbeau had nine and seven, respectively. Ian Bowers, a 6-4 senior, scored seven and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan The Lawrence bench celebrates when the Bulldogs get possession after the ball went out of bounds off Cony’s Ian Bowers on Friday in Augusta.

“They stuck together,” said Maines, whose team trailed 22-20 at halftime but outscored the Bulldogs 26-17 to take the lead for good in the third. “If things aren’t going well, don’t worry about it. You kind of pick each other up. I really felt that they did that.”

Jackson Dudley led Lawrence with 14 points, while Nick Robertson, Kobe Nadeau and Gavin Herrin scored 11 apiece. Even when the Cony lead swelled to 59-45 in the fourth, the Bulldogs didn’t quit, cutting the deficit to six points before a pair of charges with 1:42 and 1:16 to play doomed their chances.

“I’m not a believer in any moral victories. We expected to come in here and play well,” coach Jason Pellerin said. “They had a spurt in the third quarter where they jumped out. We talked about runs, we talked about trying to limit their runs to five points.”

Cony struggled to an 8-for-31 start from the field in the first half, and its star guard in McCormick couldn’t find a rhythm, with Maines noticing he was hyperventilating while trying to get his game under control.

In the second half, McCormick began to attack the Lawrence defense. He drove for a basket to give Cony a 30-29 lead with 4:56 left in the third, then drove again, scored in transition and hit a jumper to cap an 18-8 Cony run and put the Rams ahead 41-35 with just over two minutes left.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Cony’s Ian Bowers, top, and Lawrence’s Dylan Martin-Hacey battle for a rebound Friday in Augusta.

“In the first half, I was kind of tentative. I was hyper, I was going fast, not slowing down, my breathing was bad,” McCormick said. “In the second half I slowed down, I was myself, I was passing, I was shooting, getting my own shot. I was back to normal.”

Lawrence closed to within 48-42 early in the fourth on a Dylan Martin-Hacey 3-pointer, but Cony pulled away again. Dearborn hit a three, McCormick scored on a 3-point play, Bowers had a putback and McCormick hit a 3-pointer to cap another run, this time 11-3, and put the Rams ahead 59-45 with 4:32 to play.

“We just played as a team together,” McCormick said. “We definitely have a lot of work to do, (but) we haven’t won our first game in a while. It’s definitely a good feeling.”

Lawrence had enough left to scare Cony, taking advantage of turnovers and going on a 10-2 run led by four points from Dudley, but the Bulldogs’ miscues at the end stymied the rally.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan Cony’s Matt Wozniak, left, looks for a teammate to pass to as Lawrence’s Gavin Herrin plays defense Friday in Augusta.

“I think we’re still working on our mental toughness piece,” Pellerin said. “I know we’ve got fire, I know we’ve got some grit, and yes, that came out then. But we needed more of it throughout the course of the whole second half.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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