MONMOUTH — Even in what’s largely been a successful season for the Monmouth Academy boys basketball team to date, there have been some moments of oh-so-near against the top dogs.

The Mustangs were desperate to avoid another Tuesday — and the start they had in this contest ensured they did.

Monmouth claimed an immensely crucial win in the Heal points with a 64-49 home triumph over first-place Richmond. The Mustangs led from wire to wire in the contest, scoring the game’s first 18 points and never letting the visiting Bobcats back within 10.

“We’ve been on the wrong end of some close ones, so this feels great,” said Monmouth head coach Wade Morrill. “At Dirigo and Mt. Abram, we had foul trouble late, and if you look at both those games, I think we were winning by double digits in the third quarter. Tonight, we took control early and didn’t let go.”

Sammy Calder had a game-high 26 points for Monmouth with 19 coming in the first half. The Mustangs also got 14 points from Kyle Palleschi and 10 rebounds from Lucas Harmon. Hunter Mason had 19 points for Richmond, which got 18 from Kenny Mecham.

Monmouth’s Bingham Abbott, left, and Richmond’s Wyatt Cassidy tip off to start a boys basketball game Tuesday in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Monmouth (12-3) dominated in every facet in the first quarter, turning the ball over just once to Richmond’s five times and outrebounding the Bobcats 13-4. Seven points from Calder and five from Palleschi had Monmouth out to an 18-0 lead before Richmond finally scored, and the Mustangs led 19-2 after one.


Even as Monmouth’s control of the game slipped somewhat in the second quarter, the Mustangs stayed healthily in front. Despite eight turnovers in the period, Richmond (13-2) never got closer than 12 points as 10 more from Calder powered the home team to a 35-16 lead going into the break.

“For the first four and the last four (minutes of the game), we just make sure we go hard and that there are no mental lapses,” Calder said. “We did a good job pushing the pace and rebounding, which is something we try to do every game. We definitely controlled the boards.”

Although Monmouth pushed its lead to its largest of the game at 23 points early in the second half, Richmond soon pulled back within 14 led by two 3-pointers from Mason. Yet even with Calder on the bench with foul trouble for much of the fourth, the Bobcats never got closer than 13.

The win helped Monmouth close the gap with Mt. Abram, which lost its first game of the year to Maranacook on Tuesday, for second place. The Mustangs look set to clinch at worst the No. 3 seed in the Class C South tournament, but they have their sights, Calder said, set even higher.

“It’s a busy week for us, but we knew this was probably the most important game of the week,” said Calder, who scored his 1,000th career point earlier this month. “We knew if we want to get the 1 or 2 (seed), coming out tonight and getting a win tonight was what we had to do.”

Monmouth’s win came with Levi Laverdiere, a freshman averaging nearly 15 points per game, out sick and with Jacob Harmon, a key player off the bench, out with a concussion. Getting those players back, Morrill said, will be important for the Mustangs with the calendar set to flip to February.

Before that, though, Monmouth will be faced with another tough East/West Conference foe when it hosts Class D contender Valley on Thursday. Then, the mission turns to clearing the hurdle that is the Class C South regional final, where the Mustangs have fallen short the past two seasons.

“We were undermanned tonight, but our guys knew what it was going to take and worked with it,” Morrill said. “We feel we’re as good as everybody in this conference, and on any given night, if we play our best team basketball and are on point with our rebounding, we can hang in there with anyone.”

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