FAIRFIELD — When the preseason coaches’ poll for Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North boys basketball came out in early December, Lawrence’s Conner Nutting felt a bit disrespected.

Even in a conference as tough as A North was supposed to be (and, in fact, has been), Nutting felt his team was better than its eighth-place ranking. That ranking put a chip on the shoulder of a Bulldogs team that’s used it as motivation — motivation that’s produced results such as a 61-51 win Friday against Skowhegan.

“When I heard we were eighth, I was immediately like, ‘There’s no way,’” Nutting said. “It was surprising, and it was definitely really motivating for us. We knew we were better than that, and we wanted to go out, put the work in and show everybody who we are.”

In its latest showing, Lawrence topped a Skowhegan team that was picked first in that preseason poll. Trailing by one after three quarters of play, the Bulldogs broke through for 29 points in the fourth to win their fourth consecutive game and improve to 7-3 on the season.

Skowhegan jumped out to an early lead through Kyle LePage, who muscled his way to two easy layups to put the River Hawks ahead 6-2. Nutting immediately answered with a 3-pointer for Lawrence to begin an 11-3 run that concluded with the senior captain converting a layup at the buzzer to send Folsom Gymnasium wild.

“We live off the energy that comes from this gym, and when it gets loud, it just keeps us going,” Nutting said. “This was the loudest it’s been all year. The Cony game was pretty loud, but that was nothing compared to this. … When you make big buckets, it’s insane; you can’t hear anything. It’s awesome.”


With Lawrence leading 16-11 in the second quarter, though, Skowhegan (6-4) went back in front with a 7-0 run thanks to two baskets from Collin LePage and a 3-pointer from Patrick McKenney. The Bulldogs briefly retook the lead at 19-18, but the River Hawks ended the half on a 7-0 run with a McKenney triple at the buzzer putting the visitors up 25-19. 

Lawrence needed just 1:16 to take back the lead in the third quarter with a 7-0 run of its own. The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 31-27 on a Dane Zawistowski 3-pointer later in the period before Skowhegan scored six of the last seven points in the third to take a one-point lead into the fourth.

With the game tied at 35 early in the fourth quarter, Zawistowski buried another 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up for good. He did it again moments later as he answered a Quintcey McCray triple that saw Skowhegan creep back within a point, and Lawrence added a flurry of free throws down the stretch to pull away for a clutch win.

“I’ve had a lot more confidence this year,” said Zawistowski, who earlier this season hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Lawrence a 49-47 victory over Nokomis. “I think that’s been the main thing for me this year. I’ve put up a lot of shots in practice and outside of practice, too.”

Lawrence’s Brandon Watson tries to dish the ball to a teammate as he dives on the court against Skowhegan in the first half during a boys basketball game Friday in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Zawistowski had a game-high 20 points for Lawrence, which also got 18 points from Nutting, 11 points from Parker Higgins and eight rebounds from Lucas Campbell. Skowhegan got 12 points and three rebounds from McKenney and 11 points and four rebounds from Kyle LePage.

Despite missing leading rebounder Adam Savage, who had to sit out after committing two technical fouls Tuesday against Cony, Skowhegan still had a size advantage in 6-foot-5 twins Kyle and Collin LePage. Yet that didn’t faze Lawrence, which outrebounded the River Hawks 23-20 led by Campbell and Brandon Watson (five boards).


“We just tried to keep playing with heart and keep making those hustle plays,” said Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin. “We might not be the biggest, and we might not be the fastest, but we know we can play with a lot of energy and a lot of effort, and tonight, we did that.”

Free throws made a big difference for Lawrence in the final quarter. Thirteen of the Bulldogs’ 29 points in the fourth came via free throws with Zawistowski scoring five of his 12 points in the period from the line, Higgins making three, Michael Hamlin hitting two and Campbell, Nutting and Gavin Lunt sinking one each.

At 7-3, Lawrence is three wins away from securing its first winning season since 2015-16. Although the Bulldogs haven’t necessarily been league bottomfeeders in the seven losing seasons since then, this year’s team, Nutting and Zawistowski said, has grown in terms of team chemistry.

“I’d say we’re a lot closer,” Zawistowski said. “We have really good team chemistry with each other, and we play hard for each other. I love playing with these guys.”

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