WINTHROP — The Mustangs got just what they expected Friday night and, in the end, exactly what they needed, too.

Monmouth Academy held Winthrop to just two points over the final 3:02, pulling out a 52-49 win in a Mountain Valley Conference boys basketball game at Poulin Gym. The Mustangs (14-3) got a game-high 18 points from Manny Calder and utilized a strong supporting cast on a night when both teams were hampered by enormous foul troubles.

It was Monmouth’s eight win in its last nine games. It also represented the Mustangs’ first win at Winthrop in more than a decade, according to Monmouth coach Wade Morrill.

“(Friday) was a good way to show everyone that we can finish close games,” Calder said. “We handled business.”

A laugher less than 10 minutes after tip-off turned tight when Winthrop (8-9) turned up the pressure after halftime, turning a 31-13 halftime deficit into a tie ballgame at 47-all with 3:26 remaining. Sophomore Braden Branagan (12 points) drilled 3-pointers — one from the right side, a second from the left — on consecutive Rambler trips down the court to knot things up.

Sam Frost and Kyle Palleschi answered for Monmouth, with Gavin Gregor’s free throw with 12.7 seconds left helping seal the win.

Branagan had a chance to tie things once again as the clock clicked zero, but his contested trey from the left corner hit iron.

Winthrop’s Carter Rivers, left, shoots in front of Monmouth Academy defender Manny Calder during a Mountain Valley Conference game Friday night in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We had to have a few role guys step up for us tonight,” Calder said. “It’s nice to have some depth on the bench in games like that, for sure.”

Monmouth raced out to a 12-0 lead in the opening quarter and a 21-2 lead early in the second period. Calder dropped 16 of his 18 in the first half.

But with his brother, Sam Calder (12 points), bolted to the bench for more than eight minutes in the first half with foul trouble, the Mustangs didn’t have the same second-half rhythm.

Sam Calder and Isaac Oliveira both fouled out, as did Carter Rivers for Winthrop.

Even with Rivers out of the lineup for a bulk of the second half, the Ramblers excelled at turning up the pace and outscored the visitors 21-9 in the third quarter to cut the Monmouth lead to 40-34 entering the fourth.

“I know the season is coming to an end soon, but if we learn how to put four quarters of Winthrop Rambler basketball together, we’ll be a very dangerous team,” said Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur, whose team likely needs to win its season finale at Lisbon on Monday to qualify for the Class C South tournament.

Once Winthrop tied the game with Branagan’s back-to-back threes, Monmouth slowed things down by putting the ball in Manny Calder’s hands to run a much more patient offense.

Winthrop defenders Tyler Shumway, left, and Cole Bard,right, double team Monmouth Academy’s Gavin Gregor during a Mountain Valley Conference game Friday night in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We play really well in chaos,” MacArthur said. “One of the things we don’t do really well is play well in the half-court set. They were able to get the game into the half-court set (late), and the whole pace of the game changed. They were able to capitalize.”

“While they might not have the record they usually do, this is still a Coach MacArthur team. This is still the Winthrop Ramblers,” Morrill said. “They have pride, and they work, and we know that. … We had some guys learn a lot tonight about how to play under pressure.”

Monmouth — bitten in a double-overtime loss to Mountain Valley on Jan. 26 — learned from previous errors.

“That third quarter was every coach’s nightmare — they started hitting shots, our guys went cold, they start cranking up pressure, we have two starters in deep foul trouble,” Morrill said. “But we needed that. I told our guys after (Mountain Valley) we needed to win a tight one and we had to respond to adversity. That’s what we did tonight.”

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