AUGUSTA — It’s difficult to stand out in Class A North boys basketball — but it’s also becoming hard not to notice the Mt. Blue Cougars.

With one of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s best players in Evans Sterling and a deep bench, there are so many ways for Mt. Blue to beat you. Many of them were on display Friday as the Cougars earned a 68-62 road win over a Cony squad that could have beaten many of Maine’s top teams with how well it shot and rebounded.

“We’re a mentally strong team, and it takes a lot to faze these guys,” said Mt. Blue head coach Troy Norton. “We’ve got a lot of reliable players, and they’re always prepared for whatever’s thrown at them. I never have to worry about these guys losing confidence or not giving a great effort.”

Even in a league that’s a total log jam, Mt. Blue has been right near the top all season long. The Cougars have gone from a potential sleeper team to legitimate Class A North contenders, and performances like this one against Cony have them believing they’re on the verge of something special.

Mt. Blue (9-4) showed its balance early in the game against Cony as seven different players scored for the Cougars in the first quarter. Mt. Blue scored 18 points in that period and continued its stellar offensive performance into the second quarter with 19 more.

Cony was right there with Mt. Blue in the first half, going into the locker room trailing just 37-35 after an Alex Fournier 3-pointer at the buzzer. It was a play that had the potential to give the Rams (7-6) some momentum going into the second half, but instead, the Cougars took control back in the third quarter to lead by as many as nine.


“I think that that was just a lucky shot,” said Sterling, who had 18 points and five rebounds. “I didn’t think he could do that again, so I knew we could come back out in the third quarter and come back from that.”

Mt. Blue did so in the third quarter by holding Cony to just six points, and in the fourth, Sterling took over. With the Cougars leading just 57-54, he made back-to-back baskets to make it a three-possession game. Then, after a Chandler Briggs 3-pointer had put the visitors up 64-60, Sterling got a steal and layup that essentially iced the game.

Sterling had been unable to play in the prior meeting between Mt. Blue and Cony after picking up two technical fouls in the team’s previous game against Skowhegan. In his absence, Parker Sergent tore up the Cougars with a 26-point effort that powered Cony to a 71-63 victory in Farmington.

Friday’s game, then, was one Mt. Blue had circled on the calendar. Although Sergent did get some key buckets late to finish with 16 points, Sterling largely kept him in check with his size, vigilance and lateral quickness.

“We usually play a matchup zone, but the biggest thing tonight was we wanted to get him on Sergent, so we made the switch and went man-to-man,” Norton said. “When Parker gets into the paint, he likes to make some of those shifty moves, but with Evans’ length, he was able to stop him.”

Mt. Blue usually gets another player to step up with a big game alongside Evans, and on this night, the Cougars had two. Briggs hit three 3-pointers — two to begin the game prior to his late dagger — to finish with a team-high 19 points, and Zak Koban added 13 points and seven rebounds.


That’s not to say, though, that this was a perfect performance from Mt. Blue. Cony edged the Cougars 31-24 on the boards, frequently beating the visitors to offensive rebounds. The Rams also forced a number of turnovers, which led to points that ate into Mt. Blue’s lead.

“Offensive rebounding killed us in the first half, and that’s something we know we have to tighten up,” Norton said. “Fortunately, we were able to do that a lot better in the second half, and we got huge games from role players like Zak Koban and Jayden Meader.”

Those players, as noted, have always seemed to step up one by one for Mt. Blue this season. It’s a distinct blend of balance and star power — and the way it’s produced wins such as Friday’s has the Cougars believing they’re right there with the best of the bunch.

“We’re having a good season so far, and we know anybody can beat anybody on any given night,” Sterling said. “We’re a family, and when it comes down to those moments, we’re together.”

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