Cony’s Dom Napolitano (14) grabs the rebound against Lawrence during a boys basketball game Tuesday in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Cony boys basketball team is known for its offense. Always pushing the ball, always making the extra pass and never afraid to take a 3-pointer (or several).

But for all the flash the Rams show on the offensive side of floor, what may get lost in the shuffle is the dirty work Cony doesn’t mind doing on the defensive end.

That work was evident Tuesday night, and helped Cony beat Lawrence 75-62 in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A slugfest that went back-and-forth until the fourth quarter. The Rams didn’t have their smoothest night on offense, though senior forward Luke Briggs finished with a game-high 21 points and three others — Parker Sergent (15), Kam Douin (14) and Dom Napolitano (14) — each finished with double-digit points. But it was the work on defense, causing several Lawrence turnovers, that helped in the success of the offense, which outscored the Bulldogs 23-15 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

“Everything builds off of how we play defensively,” Briggs said. “If its a bad night with the defense, it translates to the offense and it’ll bring us down. If we can really get into our defensive mindset and really push the pace on people, it’s really hard to stop us.”

The Rams got to work from the start of the game, working a full-court press on Lawrence. Players constantly had their hands up, moving around, doing anything to get in the way of deflecting a pass or shot. Even head coach T.J. Maines had no trouble getting his point across to his players, at times throwing his hands high over his head when action was near him on the sideline.

“Tip work we do in practice all the time,” Maines said. “We keep deflection charts, tip charts. It’s just something that’s really important for us, because we know that’s how we create turnovers. It makes other teams uncomfortable. They’ve got to spend time preparing for that.”

Cony dove for loose balls, and had no trouble taking the charge. Doing the latter helped knock out Lawrence guard Conner Nutting — who was leading the Bulldogs with nine points in the first half — out of the game with his fifth foul with over five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Cony’s Brady Hopkins (11) tries to save the ball from going out of bounds in the first quarter against Lawrence during a boys basketball game Tuesday in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Douin, a junior, said conditioning helps with Cony’s defense.

“We condition in practice, that’s kind of part of every drill we do, is to get up and down (the floor) and get moving,” Douin said. “We also sub a lot, and that keeps legs fresh.”

The Rams are so enamored with their defense, they’ve made it part of the pregame ritual. Assistant coach Isaiah Brathwaite leads the team in defensive stance and shuffle drills, an old-school practice not normally seen in warmups in today’s Maine high school basketball scene.

“It’s kind of just like an adrenaline pump, it gets you going,” Douin said.

“Coach (Brathwaite) always gives us so much hype. He’s always there, yelling, screaming, getting us all ready. At the end of pregame, he runs that. It’s honestly just a big momentum builder. The way to start (a game) after a pregame like that is a good way to start.”

It may be offense that grabs the headlines for the Rams, but the work Cony does on defense may very well decide where the team goes for the remainder of the 2021-2022 season.

“We’re going to give up layups and it’s going to be ugly at times,” Maines said. “But that’s OK. As long as the pace is up, it favors us, because I guarantee you we practice at a faster pace than everybody else. If we can keep it up in a game, even if we give up some layups, some uncontested shots, I can live with it as long as the pace is up.”

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