ASHLAND, Maine – The Ashland and Easton boys’ varsity basketball teams battled back and forth throughout the evening Thursday but Ashland pulled away in the waning minutes behind strong foul shooting for an 84-73 win.
by six with 4:20 remaining, the Bears went to a full-court trap, forcing an Ashland turnover. The teams traded a pair of quick baskets and a block by Easton’s Jeremy Brock gave the team their first chance to play catch-up.
The Bears got three looks at the basket before Ashland would get their next chance on offense and the Hornets found themselves with a chance to pull ahead.
Easton was called for two technical fouls on one play, putting Jeremy Tarr on the line for four shots for the Hornets. Tarr made all four count and gave Ashland a 10-point advantage with 2:16 remaining.
“Those were big,” said Ashland center Curtis Belanger. “It helped us put the game away and with everyone getting fouls making fouls shots were big. That’s what we needed.”
The Bears though, still weren’t out of it. Brock made two baskets on Easton’s next two possessions to pull the team within nine with 48 seconds left, but the team was forced to foul and Ashland wasn’t missing. Tarr and teammate Isaac Ward put in three free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.
Ashland opened up a 14-2 lead in the first four minutes of play behind a full-court press and a 1-3-1 zone designed to stop the Bears’ inside tandem of Brock and Sam Bacon and the outside presence of Brad Trask, but Easton began their climb back at the end of the first when Nate Sanders went to the mid-post to draw defenders. Trask made his move across the baseline, getting open for the bounce pass and the easy jumper.
“The keys for us were shutting down Brad Trask and Jeremy Brock,” Belanger said. “I think we did a pretty good job at that. If they were [up top] we let them shoot the threes but we didn’t want to allow them the post.”
Trask proved dangerous from the arc though, hitting five on the evening including three in the third quarter to keep the Bears within striking distance.
Easton used a 3-2 zone to keep Ashland’s outside shooting to a minimum and collapsed the pocket, trying to keep Belanger and forward Kevin Baker quiet but the Hornets proved unselfish with the ball, finding the open man and spreading scoring around to nine different players.
“I just try to put it aside that everyone’s going to be double-teaming me,” Belanger said. “If they double-team me, there’s someone else open on the floor and I’m willing to pass to them if I can.”
Belanger led the Hornets with 22 points and 15 rebounds followed by Tarr with 20 and Ward and Baker with 10 each. Jason Levesque pulled down nine boards and added six points to the mix. Also getting in on the scoring action was Tyler Cote with six, Carl Nemer and Jesse Martin with four each and Lucas Belanger with two.
Three Bears scored in double figures including Trask with 25, Brock with 21 and Sanders with 10. Also adding points were Daniels with seven, Nick Flewelling with six and Sam Bacon with four.
Ashland improves to 5-5 on the season and moves into 15th place in the Eastern Maine Class D standings while Easton falls to 7-4 and remains in 11th place.
Ashland hosts Greater Houlton Christian Academy at 7 p.m. Wednesday and travels to Mars Hill Friday for a 7 p.m. start against Central Aroostook.
Easton is back in action Friday against Southern Aroostook in Dyer Brook at 7 p.m. and hosts Ashland Tuesday at 7.