Battle of undefeated teams goes to CA
By Kevin Sjoberg
MARS HILL — Going in, it was deemed the game of the year in Aroostook County, and the number of people attending Saturday evening’s game at the Central Aroostook High School Gymnasium was proof that the matchup was highly anticipated.
Staff photo/Kevin Sjoberg
WATCH OUT! — Washburn’s Connor Fitzpatrick looks toward the hoop as CA’s Mike McClung defends from behind Saturday. The Panthers won, 64-54.
Playing in front of an overflow crowd of approximately 800, the first sellout at CAHS in 15 years, the Washburn Beavers and Central Aroostook Panthers put their undefeated records on the line. In the end, it was CA prevailing, 64-54, thanks to some intense defense, clutch shooting and strong inside play.
“We’re a pretty good defensive team,” said Panther coach Tim Brewer, “and I thought we did a good job with our man-to-man against Mitch Worcester. Dan Brewer and Caleb Kelly took turns guarding him and both did a good job.”
Taking care of the outside shooting part of the equation was senior guard Logan McLaughlin, who tallied 16 points in the game, including back-to-back three-pointers in the final minute of the third quarter that turned a two-point lead at the time into an eight-point margin heading into the final period.
“In the first half, I couldn’t hit a shot,” McLaughlin said, “but my teammates told me to keep shooting and eventually they’d fall.
“I got in a rhythm and they started falling.”
The Panthers never led by less than seven points the rest of the way, and when Worcester, the explosive sophomore guard who had scored 47 points four nights earlier, was called for his fifth foul with 4:56 to play in the game, Washburn did not have the firepower to get back in contention.
“When [Mitch] is not out there, it’s tough for us to climb that hill and get back in it,” said Washburn coach Randy Norsworthy.
And with Worcester out of the game, CA made a concentrated effort to get the ball inside to junior center Mike McClung, and it paid off as he scored nine of his 16 points in the final period.
“When we get lots of ball movement, we can get Mike involved,” Brewer said. “If we don’t reverse the ball, the defense doesn’t need to adjust.”
The Beavers took their last lead when Mason Turner’s three-pointer made it 9-8 with 4:40 to go in the opening quarter.
Senior forward Caleb Kelly then hit two consecutive shots, including the 1,000th point of his career, and the Panthers never trailed again.
Washburn was able to tie the game on a Worcester three-pointer with 6:05 left in the third, but a Kelly hoop was followed by a 10-footer by McLaughlin as well as the first of his three three-pointers in the period to allow the Panther to regain control.
Kelly finished with a team-best 17 points.
For Washburn, Jordan McLaughlin was the high scorer with 20 points, including eight in the final quarter. Worcester finished with 15.
The two teams meet again in Washburn Monday, and both sides anticipate another tough game.
“It’ll be another battle, especially on their home floor,” Logan McLaughlin said.
“We tend to shoot better at home, and if we do, the game will be very close,” Norsworthy added.