GARDINER — He was a supporting player last year, but Dakota Dearborn seems to be growing into a starring role with the Cony boys basketball team.

Dearborn scored 22 points, 10 in the third quarter alone, and the Rams rode a dominant effort in that third quarter to a 77-45 victory over Gardiner in a matchup between the two nemeses on Friday night.

“Any time you can play a rival and go into their gym and win, it’s great,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “I’m really pleased and excited for our group. We’ve got a good team.”

Dearborn led the way, but Cony (3-0) also got 13 points from Simon McCormick, 12 from freshman Luke Briggs and 11 from Ian Bowers.

“In the preseason, (Dearborn) had 23 or 24 against Deering,” Maines said. “This summer he played great. … We knew what he was capable of.”

“Having a bigger role is something I’m looking forward to, with Jordan (Roddy) being gone,” Dearborn said. “(But) we’ve just got to play our game, it’s not about me.”

Gardiner (0-3) was led by Isaac Gammon, who scored 15 points on five 3-pointers, but the Tigers were gashed by foul trouble in the second half; four Gardiner players fouled out while Cony pulled away.

“I think you can learn from every situation,” Gardiner coach Aaron Toman said. “How to keep our heads when things aren’t going well, and things weren’t going so well for us.”

Gardiner’s Jackson Tweedy, left, plays defense on Cony’s Dakota Dearborn during a Class A North game Friday in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

The Rams never trailed, but there was cause for concern for the visitors, especially when the Tigers cut a 15-point second-quarter deficit down to 10 points at 34-24 going into halftime.

“I was not happy at halftime, with the way the second quarter ended,” Maines said. “Really poor execution, they went to a zone, we turned it over. … I just kind of challenged the kids to come out and play hard.”

The message was received, and the roof caved in on the Tigers. Dearborn hit a jumper and made two free throws, and Kyle Douin followed with 3-pointers on back-to-back trips down the court to put Cony ahead 44-27.

“We were better with our hands, we were better defensively on deflections, shots fell a little more,” Maines said. “We got the ball on top of the rim, we got to the foul line. … Those were all real positives.”

Asked what made the difference in Cony’s production, Dearborn just smiled.

“Coach’s halftime speech really got into us,” he said. “We just came out and played hard, played aggressive, and got into it.”

Gardiner had no answers for the surge, which became a 21-0 run that buried the Tigers 59-27 and took away any hopes for a comeback. Gardiner fouls sent Cony to the line for 12 free throws in the quarter — eight for Dearborn alone — and the Rams made each one.

Gardiner’s Luke Stevens, left, and Cony’s Ian Bowers battle for a rebound during a Class A North game Friday in Gardiner. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“Cony does a good job of speeding you up, and they do it and do it and do it until you break,” Toman said. “We lost our heads a little bit. We just have to continue to keep our heads and just get better.”

Logan Carleton scored nine points for the Tigers, while Casey Gallagher, Hunter Land and Luke Stevens had five apiece in the defeat.

“We’re going to come back better and stronger because of it,” Toman said. “It just comes down to competing no matter what. No matter the score, no matter the foul situation, no matter what’s going on.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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