It was Mitch Root’s last basket of the game. And for the Maranacook boys basketball team, it was its biggest.

Root hit a 3-pointer to put the Black Bears ahead with 6:02 remaining in the game, Aric Belanger shook off foul trouble to make the plays needed to keep them there, and Maranacook out-dueled Cony 72-60 in what was, until the final moments, a dead-even game between two of the area’s hottest teams.

“They’re as good as any team in B South, and probably any team in Class B. For us to come out with a win shows us what we’re capable of,” coach Rob Schmidt said. “I think that’s going to give us a lot of confidence. It’s going to show us where we’re able to play, we just need to play like that every night.”

Maranacook, sitting in first place in Class B South, improved to 5-1 on the strength of 20 points from Root, 14 from Cash McClure and nine apiece from Duncan Rogers and Jarred Schmidt. Cony fell to 6-2, hitting 12 3-pointers but only four in the second half and one in the fourth quarter, allowing the Black Bears to end the game on a 15-2 run.

Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Maranacook’s Mitchell Root, left, and Cony’s Luke Briggs go after the ball during a game Friday in Readfield.

“They made the plays in the last five minutes that we didn’t make,” said coach T.J. Maines, who got 14 points from Dakota Dearborn, 12 apiece from Simon McCormick and Kyle Douin and seven rebounds from Ian Bowers. “I don’t love seeing offensive rebounds off of free throws, there were three of those, leak outs. … We didn’t make enough plays at the end.”

The final score belied a back-and-forth, frantic pace that captivated a raucous crowd at Burbank Memorial Gym. There were 14 lead changes from the second quarter on, as both teams took turns wrestling control of the game from each other.

The Rams had just gone ahead 58-57 on a Douin 3-pointer with 6:29 left when a timeout was called after a missed shot went out of bounds on Cony. The Black Bears found Root in the left corner shortly after the inbounds, and the senior buried his third 3-pointer of the night to put Maranacook back in front 60-58 with 6:02 left.

“It’s so much fun,” Root said of the atmosphere. “I wish every game was like that. Your adrenaline gets pumping.”

Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Cony’s Bryan Stratton, left, tries to pass around Maranacook’s Mitchell Root (5) and Duncan Rogers (13) during a game Friday in Readfield.

Cony couldn’t answer on the next possession, and after a rebound by Skyler Boucher (seven boards), Belanger — who had only two points through three quarters after picking up three fouls in the first half — drove the lane and took contact for a 3-point play, pushing the Maranacook lead to 63-58 with 5:26 left. The teams then traded misses before a lane opened again for Belanger, who again converted for a basket and foul to make the advantage 66-58 with 3:42 to go.

“That’s what’s so special about this team,” said Root, who added nine rebounds. “We have a lot of leaders, we have a lot of seniors, we all know how to lead. We’re not afraid to take those shots in big games.”

Coach Schmidt said the victory, which saw one group of players make big plays early and another make them late, summed up what his team is about.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of tonight,” he said. “It was a team effort. We don’t rely on one or two guys. We rely on a whole bunch of guys, and it shows this bunch of guys what they can do.”

Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Maranacook’s Garrett Whitten, left, and Cony’s Ian Bowers and Matt Wozniak (31) battle for a rebound during a game Friday in Readfield.

Dearborn hit a jumper to make it 66-60 with around three and a half minutes to go and keep Cony’s hopes alive, but the Rams’s shooting touch had gone cold.

“We made plenty of plays early on, I thought we shot the ball well,” Maines said. “And every time I felt like we were taking a step in the right direction, they’d make a big shot. … I thought (Root’s go-ahead 3-pointer) kind of changed momentum a bit.”

In the third quarter, no lead was safe. Root hit a 3-pointer with 3:29 to go to make it 47-45 Maranacook, only for Dearborn to hit one of his own and McCormick to get a steal and go in for a score to make it 50-47 Cony.

That was the Rams’ biggest lead, as Schmidt scored on a layup and Rogers had a 3-point play to put Maranacook ahead 52-50 with 2:09 to go. The Black Bears ended the third quarter ahead 54-51, but Cony got four quick points following a technical foul on the Black Bears between periods.

Maranacook took the lead once more on a Schmidt 3-pointer, but Douin answered on Cony’s next trip down — setting up Root’s and Belanger’s heroics.

Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Maranacook’s Mitchell Root, left, plays defense on Cony’s Luke Briggs during a game Friday in Readfield.

“It says that they all trust each other,” Coach Schmidt said. “It says that they’re bold enough to not be afraid in the big moment. … I think that support will go a long way. It’s a very important quality for a team to have.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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