Cony’s Kam Douin, left, (3) tries to get past Gardiner’s Ryan Moore (24) during a game Saturday in the Bragoli Gym at Gardiner Area High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — A season-opening game between the Cony and Gardiner boys basketball teams that looked like it could go down to the final minutes needed only part of a quarter to turn completely around.

Luke Briggs scored 15 points, Kam Douin added 12 and Cony began its season with a 62-35 victory over Gardiner in a Saturday afternoon matchup.

“It’s awesome. I love the environment here,” said Briggs, a senior. “I’m sad it’s the last time I’m ever going to be here, in this environment, but I’m just happy that, with COVID and everything, we’ve got the opportunity for everyone to come out and have a full crowd. It was awesome.”

Gardiner, which was playing without standout forward Kalvin Catchings due to a shoulder injury, got 13 points from Colby Moody and six apiece from Hunter Burgess and Ryan Moore, who left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

“Their pressure just fatigued us,” Tigers coach Aaron Toman said. “We expended so much energy in the first half following our gameplan, and in the third quarter, their pressure just fatigued us.”

Cony’s trademark full-court pressure has given Gardiner fits over the last couple of years and was a big reason the Rams had won their last four matchups with the Tigers by an average of 35.2 points, but the Tigers were more prepared for Cony’s frantic style of defense from the opening tip. Gardiner battled its rival throughout the first half, and even took a 23-20 lead when Colby Moody made his second of back-to-back baskets with just over two minutes to go in the second quarter.

A pair of baskets by Dom Napolitano, a transition layup by Parker Sergent and a drive by Briggs allowed Cony to score the final eight points of the half, however, and the Rams didn’t let that momentum go after the break. Gardiner turned the ball over five times in the first 66 seconds, and a basket by Sergent, a 3-pointer from Kaleb Stred and free throws by Napolitano and Douin helped the lead grow to 11 as Cony began to pull away.

“Definitely, our ball pressure (improved),” said Briggs, who had all 15 of his points before the fourth quarter. “We were a little bit too far back in our press in the first half, shots weren’t falling. … The first half was definitely a struggle shooting the ball, but I think in the second half our offense really picked up.”

“We felt like they were tired and we weren’t, and we said ‘Hey, come out in the third quarter and really do a good job defensively,’ ” Cony coach T.J. Maines said. “I thought Kaleb Stred and Kam Douin, up front with pressure, did a tremendous job of getting hands to balls, whether it was tips or up front. And we were off and going.”

Already having a tough time maintaining possession of the ball, the Tigers also had difficulties shooting it. Gardiner didn’t get on the board until Moody hit a jumper with 2:14 left, and by then Cony had already scored the period’s first 13 points.

Gardiner’s Ryan Moore shoots over Cony’s Brady Hopkins during a basketball game Saturday in the James A. Bragoli Memorial Gym at Gardiner Area High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“They just took us out of what we were doing in the first half,” Toman said. “That’s their M.O. It gets to you. Teams can handle it for a quarter, two quarters, three quarters. It’s hard to handle that in Maine high school basketball for four quarters. We did a good job handling it for two quarters. It’s something that we’ve got to improve on.”

Gardiner’s efforts to stop the bleeding were hindered when they lost Moore, who had 10 rebounds and three blocks in the first half alone and was a disruptive presence for any Rams attacking the basket. The senior was blocking his fifth shot of the game when he landed awkwardly and injured his ankle, leaving the game for good with 4:51 to go in the third and Cony up 34-23.

“This preseason, it’s been next man up,” Toman said. “Obviously it’s a loss, but we believe in next man up.”

The Rams, though, had already made their move toward an impressive, if not perfect, opening victory.

“I thought we missed a lot of stuff that usually I’m much more comfortable with, I think we can make them,” Maines said. “We just didn’t. I think part of that was Ryan Moore did a really good job inside at the rim on us, and part of it was that we’ve just got to finish. It was good. I’m glad that it came out the way it did.”

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