READFIELD – The Maranacook boys basketball team doesn’t swap five players in and out at a time anymore. Or launch 3-pointers every trip down the court. Or press relentlessly through all corners of the floor.

“We have slowed it down a little bit,” coach Rob Schmidt said.

As they showed Tuesday night, however, the Black Bears can still bring it. Maranacook’s up-tempo pace confounded Winslow, leading the Black Bears to a 63-52 victory. Maranacook improved to 2-1, while Winslow fell to 2-2.

The Black Bears played at a more furious clip last season. But the team’s poise and composure while zipping passes around has stood out this season, and Tuesday provided another example.

“That’s the key. There’s a big difference between playing fast out of control and fast in control, and once you get out of control, bad things happen,” Schmidt said. “We’re really trying to push to keep the pace going, and yet, stay within ourselves and play under control.”

Cash McClure led the way for the Black Bears with 12 points, while Mitchell Root and Aric Belanger had nine apiece, Skyler Boucher had eight and Garrett Whitten added seven.

Maranacook’s Jarred Schmidt leaps over a tussle for the ball under Winslow’s net during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference game Tuesday in Readfield.

Belanger said the team’s comfort level with the up-tempo pace, even if it’s not the full-tilt Grinnell system from last winter, has noticeably improved.

“It’s a really athletic team, so everybody’s comfortable playing at that high speed, high tempo,” he said. “When we get the athletes out on the floor, it’s just normal for us. We’re used to running up and down the court and pushing teams.”

Justin Laflamme led the Black Raiders, who trailed 36-21 at halftime and never cut the deficit to single digits in the second half, with 23 points and eight rebounds. Colby Pomeroy added 12 and Cam Winslow scored seven.

“We know that Maranacook’s going to apply pressure. We have to take care of the ball,” coach Ken Lindlof said. “Can’t contribute to their offense by turning the ball over, which we did first quarter through the middle of the second.”

The Black Raiders didn’t shoot poorly, making 19 of 47 shots for a 40 percent clip. But they took 14 fewer than the Black Bears in the first half while the game was up for grabs, a reflection of Maranacook’s advantage in coming down with rebounds and loose balls.

“We stress the fact of gang rebounding, and doing everything as a gang,” Belanger said. “If we’re all in it, five people on the floor and everybody on the bench, it’s really something special and it’s fun to watch.”

Maranacook’s Aric Belanger strips the ball from Winslow’s Justin Laflamme during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference game Tuesday in Readfield.

Buoyed by that edge in tempo and intensity, Maranacook took command in the second quarter, which it began with a 13-10 lead. Joey Dupont scored six straight points, and after a Laflamme putback, Belanger knocked down a three and Root had a 3-pointer and then a steal and score to put Maranacook ahead 27-12 with just over three minutes to go in the half.

“We’re really focusing on getting more high-quality shots in the paint, as opposed to jacking up threes all night,” Schmidt said. “I think we can still play fast, still look for points in the paint, but we can hit our threes when they’re open. We’re just not forcing threes.”

The surge came shortly after the Black Bears’ lone cold stretch of the game. Maranacook missed 12 straight shots in the first quarter, but bounced back to hit 12 of its next 20 shots through the end of the half to take charge for good.

“I think we were smart. I think we got the ball to the right players,” Schmidt said. “I think we had some great kickouts in the paint for some nice open threes where our feet were set and we could actually take our time. And our shot selection was really good.”

Even with the early deficit, Winslow had reason to be optimistic going into the second half. It was at the same venue last season that the Black Raiders trailed Maranacook by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter before rallying for a victory in February.

Maranacook’s Garrett Whitten dribbles past Winslow’s Cameron Winslow during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference game Tuesday in Readfield.

This time, however, Winslow couldn’t find the defensive answers needed to turn the trick again.

“Last year, we were able to get stops that got us back into the game,” Lindlof said. “This year we were never able to. We talked about (how) we wanted to get three stops in a row, and then you can cut into a lead that way. But … it seemed like it was either a runout, they made a basket or we fouled. All of those things contributed to their points and kept us from cutting into that lead.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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