AUGUSTA — Dakota Dearborn knows how it goes.

The Cony guard has a teammate in Simon McCormick who’s so electric with the ball, so thrilling when pursuing it, that fans watching the Rams play start “oohing” and “aahing” from the opening tip.

They can miss, or at least overlook, the other senior standout in red and white, who’s often on his way to leading the team in points, or steals, or blocks, or plenty of other game-altering categories.

Dearborn knows this. And it’s fine by him.

Cony senior forward Dakota Dearborn looks for an opening around Gardiner defender Jackson Tweedy during a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game earlier this season in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy Buy this Photo

I definitely like it,” he said. “It motivates me.”

Whereas McCormick flashes, Dearborn is subdued. While McCormick has a visible fire for 32 minutes, Dearborn has the same expression for most of four quarters. But don’t be fooled. Dearborn has spent the last two years growing into a role as Cony’s quiet killer, its weapon in the clutch, and its X-factor as the team pursues an A North regional championship.

He can play, he can score, and he just does whatever’s needed,” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “He’s sneaky athletic and strong. You watch Simon and you’re like ‘Whoa,’ you haven’t seen anything that quick. Dakota’s not like that.

“But he’s got good core strength, he doesn’t get knocked off the ball really easily. And he rebounds, he can hold space. Dakota’s just really good. If you’re going to be a good team, you need guys like Dakota. We’re lucky we’ve got him.”

The stats are loud. Dearborn was fifth in A North in scoring this year at 16.8 points per game and fourth in steals at 2.9, good enough for his second straight first-team All-KVAC selection.

But apparently, even now, the secret’s not entirely out. McDonald’s Senior All-Star Game spots go to the top 12 seniors on Class AA, A and B teams, and Dearborn didn’t get one.

“He should have,” Maines said. “(But) he’s not an attention seeker. You just watch him, he goes out and just plays hard. And it fits his personality. That stuff’s not important to him. He’s all about ‘Let’s win. What do I have to do? Let’s win.’ “

Dearborn has been under the radar throughout his career. A transfer from Freeport as a sophomore, Dearborn didn’t play much in his first year with the Rams, and was not making his mark on a senior- and junior-led team.

The next summer, however, Dearborn made it a point to raise his game.

“Coming in sophomore year, he was a little timid, but he’s grown into his body now,” McCormick said. “I think it was him making shots, and him actually seeing he could play with anyone in our league.”

“I knew with the loss of Jordan Roddy, who was a big scorer for us, we needed someone to step up, and I wanted that to be me,” Dearborn said. “So I took time in the summer to work on my game and keep improving.”

He learned not just to score, but score from anywhere. He’s dangerous in space, but Dearborn’s signature play has become his ability to drive, take contact, and finish no matter what angle he ends up shooting from.

It actually started with my mom. I had a game where I just could not make a shot, and she’s like ‘You’ve got to go to the rim,’ ” he said. “I definitely prefer a contact shot over an open shot. It’s less pressure to me.”

Maines said Dearborn’s technique allows him to rack up so many and-1 opportunities.

If you watch him, his head’s always up,” Maines said. “So when he’s going to shoot the ball, he’s not looking at contact. He feels the contact, but his head’s up at the rim, so he finishes really well.”

Hampden Academy’s Andy Raye, left, defends Cony’s Dakota Dearborn during a game earlier this season in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

With Dearborn’s ability to score in front of, around and even through defenders, Cony had a perfect complement for McCormick. In any game, it’s a coin flip as to who will lead the team in scoring.

“He’s a great player,” McCormick said. “If they stop me, they have to stop him too. It’s a good 1-2 punch that we have.”

Usually, when it’s Dearborn’s turn, it’s when Cony needs a basket. This winter has seen an array of clutch moments from the senior, from the go-ahead, off-balance — of course — 3-pointer he hit in the final minute of a 92-89 victory over Maranacook, to the 12 fourth-quarter points he scored in a 69-65 loss at Maranacook, to even the first game in this tournament, when he led the Rams with 22 points and had big baskets to thwart an upset-minded Lawrence team late.

I think being clutch is not worrying about missing,” he said. “If you put too much pressure on yourself, you’re going to miss it. Just take the pressure off, be confident, and that’s the best thing you can do.”

And when those clutch shots go in, Dearborn will let the emotion out. Even the even-keeled players can only hold for so long.

“He’s talking a lot. Not to us, but the (opposing) team,” McCormick said. “Just annoying them. That’s a great person to have on your team.”

Even so, Dearborn chooses his words carefully. And when he does address his teammates, they listen.

“He picks his spots, and I think because of that, guys listen to him a lot,” Maines said. “He’s not constantly chattering, so it’s not ‘Ah, it’s just Dakota.’ When he says something, it means something.”

He prefers to lead by example. And for good reason. His play, while quiet, has been doing the talking.

It’s my last year, you’ve just got to go out and compete,” Dearborn said. “We don’t want it to end in the second round like it has these last couple of years. We just want to take care of business, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

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