AUGUSTA — Poor defense hurt the Cony boys basketball team in a loss to Maranacook. A cold night from the field did the team in during another loss to Winslow.

On Wednesday, it was back to the way things are supposed to look for the Rams.

Sophomore Brady Hopkins had a team-high 14 points while junior Luke Briggs and freshman Parker Sergent added 11 apiece, leading Cony  Gardiner 70-42 for its seventh straight win over its top rival.

Kalvin Catchings had 13 points and nine rebounds and Kyle Adams scored 11 to lead the Tigers (2-6).

“We just did a better job. I think the defensive intensity was much better tonight,” said coach T.J. Maines, whose team also got eight points from Isaac Gammon while improving to 6-3. “I was pleased with it. I thought the kids played pretty well.”

That wasn’t the takeaway in recent games as the Rams started to list after a 4-0 start. Cony lost to Maranacook 98-59 on Jan. 29, and then dropped games to Lawrence and Winslow, the last of which came when the Rams shot only 20 percent from inside the 3-point arc.

Cony freshmen Parker Sergent draws some tight defense from Gardiner’s Braden Dorogi during game Wednesday in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“We came in today and just talked about (how) we shot 37 or 38 percent from three, but 20 percent from two. What happened?” Maines said. “And we watched a little bit of video about guys leaning everywhere, not having a better base, not finishing layups with a high hand. And (today) we just did a better job of it.”

It looked early on like another shaky outing early, as Gardiner — which lost both games last year 79-44 and 75-47 and which last beat the Rams at the end of the 2016-17 season — began its attempt to end the skid in promising fashion, jumping on top 8-0 and holding Cony without a point for three and a half minutes.

Cony trailed 14-7 going into the second, but quickly found its rhythm. Briggs scored his first eight points of the game in the period, and Kam Douin added five points as the Rams surged back and took a 33-27 lead into halftime.

Hopkins, at just under 5-8 the smallest player on the team, then made a big impact, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers on Cony’s first two possessions of the second half, bumping the lead to 39-27 and prompting another timeout. Hopkins added a third 3-pointer in the period as Cony’s pressure began to take over, with the defense limiting the Tigers to seven field goals in the last two quarters.

“This game really brought us back in. Our confidence came back, Gardiner’s our rival so it’s nice to come out with energy,” Hopkins said. “Our effort level was up there. It was a good team win, I’d say. It was a very good team effort.”

In addition to being a return to form, the victory highlighted the scoring balance that has been a storyline for Cony all season. The Rams have seen anyone from Briggs, Kam Douin (10 points) and Kyle Douin to Bennett Carter and Sergent take the scoring lead on a nightly basis, and Wednesday was Hopkins’s turn.

“We play fast. We get a lot of shots up, everyone’s playing minutes, we play 11, 12 guys sometimes,” he said. “You could come in and be scoring a bunch of points, but another day it could be one of the bottom (of the roster players). It’s really fun.”

Maines said Hopkins’s season has been building up to Wednesday’s performance.

“He’s a really capable shooter. Last year he was the only freshman on varsity, and his confidence took a little bit of a hit because he played more early on than he did later,” Maines said. “But he’s now back to being the guy that we expect. And he plays his butt off on defense. He works his tail off, and he rebounds with the big guys. It’s fun to watch.”

The loss for Gardiner came after the Tigers won two in a row over Hall-Dale following an 0-5 start.

“I thought we played our style in the first quarter,” Gardiner coach Aaron Toman said, “and Cony inflicted their will on us in quarters two through four. That’s what I didn’t like, they played their style and we didn’t play ours.”

The Tigers caught the Rams off balance at the start of the game, but had a hard time maintaining their intensity and momentum as Cony began to strike a familiar tone with its defensive pressure. Gardiner had eight turnovers and four field goals in the third as the Rams put the game away with a 19-8 frame.

“We’ve struggled to put together four solid quarters,” Toman said. “That’s the goal every night, to play four competitive quarters, one quarter at a time. I think we’re getting there, slowly but surely.”

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