AUGUSTA — All it takes is a quick look. A quick glance. Or even a smile.

And then Alec Byron and Ashtyn Abbott know it’s time to have some fun.

“Every time we’re on the court and we see something, it’s just a little head nod or a wink and he’s off and running,” Abbott said. “And I’ll throw him a full-court pass or he’ll throw me a full-court pass or a backdoor cut.

“It’s like we’re on the same wavelength. We can see things other people don’t see, and when it’s open and we score on it, you’ve got to give him a little point. ‘I knew what you were thinking.’ ”

As the Hall-Dale boys basketball team’s opponents have found out, this happens often. The Bulldogs have become one of the most formidable teams in Class C South over the past two years, going 38-3 and winning a regional championship, and the senior stars have been at the center of it, a pair of offensive stars that play in perfect sync when they step on the court — and get along just as well off it.

“We’ve been best friends since we were kindergarteners, 5-years-old. We started playing together, actual organized, travel basketball when we were in third grade,” Byron said. “Over the years, our chemistry’s developed where we can just give each other a look and we know exactly what we’re going to do.”

Coach Chris Ranslow used the same word.

“You don’t play with somebody for 12 years or whatever it’s been and not develop kind of a chemistry,” he said. “There’s kind of a ‘second nature’ element to it. They genuinely enjoy playing with one another.”

They play together, score together, and this year, even reached milestones together. Byron reached the 1,000-point mark in a Jan. 21 win at Boothbay. Ten days later, Abbott got there in a home victory over Dirigo.

“It’s been a dream of ours,” Abbott said. “We were talking about it when we were, I don’t know, in sixth grade. ‘Oh, we’re going to be up there on the wall someday.’ “

That’s not to say their careers have taken the same route. Both have been varsity players since their freshman years, but Byron was the faster starter, getting more playing time as a freshman and even becoming an all-MVC honorable mention as a sophomore.

Abbott, meanwhile, was talented but unpolished, content to hang back and shoot rather than work into the paint.

“When I was younger, I was a lot more of a driver and a slasher,” Byron said. “He didn’t really know his identity when he was younger.”

In the summer before his junior year, he found it. Abbott grew three inches from 6-foot to 6-3, and combined it with his leaping ability — he’s the defending Class C high jump champion — and a newfound commitment to rebounding to become one of the MVC’s best players seemingly overnight.

“He’s become dominant in the last year,” Byron said.

Abbott had become a lethal scorer from inside and out and an excellent rebounder, and Ranslow saw a pattern developing. The Bulldogs had a plethora of shooters and scorers, so he urged Byron to add elements to his game as well.

“Coach told me going into junior year, ‘If we want to make a run this year, I need you to kind of change the aspects of your game and become more of an all-around player,’ ” Byron said. ” ‘Look to pass, look to rebound. Look to do other things besides just score the basketball.’ “

Just as Abbott did, Byron became a more versatile player. He worked on his perimeter defense, became a more willing rebounder, and improved his jump shot so that he could be more effective away from the basket.

“He’s had some ridiculous stat lines. I think one game he had 20 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, five steals and two blocks,” Ranslow said. “Statistically, that’s so much more valuable than a guy that scores 32 and took 25 shots to do it.”

While they’ve broadened their games, however, Byron and Abbott haven’t lost the ability to rack up the points. Both were on display in Hall-Dale’s tournament-opening win over Monmouth, an 83-57 decision in which Abbott had 34 points and Byron had 24.

Abbott said a pair of 1,000-point scorers is every bit the luxury it would appear to be.

“It’s good to have someone to kind of pick up some slack and take care of business when you’re not at your best,” he said. “I think Alec does that perfectly.”

And they’re even more dangerous when they’re working in concert, setting up another dunk or layup for the highlight reel. It doesn’t take much — and oftentimes, the connection’s been made before the opponent realizes what’s happening.

In one game against Carrabec, it happened before the opening tip.

“I gave him a look, right in the eyes, and he knew it,” Byron said. “And he tipped it to me, he cut right to the basket and I threw him a lob. He didn’t throw it down, but he caught it and laid it in. That was just that unspoken chemistry and communication that we have.”

Ranslow said that connection is often sharpest in the biggest moments.

“They’re good at winning,” he said. “They understand what it’s like to be clutch and perform in the big moments. That’s something that you can teach and cultivate to some degree, but it’s in their DNA. They’re winners, both of them.”

And they’re hoping to keep winning, and maybe even have a Gold Ball come out of that friendship. But whether or not the Bulldogs get one, their stars know having their names on that wall is pretty good in and of itself.

“After my freshman year. I was like ‘Oh, he’s probably going to get it, but I don’t think I’ll ever get there,’ ” Abbott said. “And I was happy for him. But just that both of us are there, it’s crazy.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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