Last modified Jan. 03, 2016, at 10:44 a.m.
HAMPDEN, Maine — With three starters trying to labor through ankle injuries Saturday night, the Hampden Academy boys basketball team needed major contributions from its bench in order to extend a homecourt winning streak now approaching six years.
Nick Chasse and John Wolfington provided just what the hoops doctor required as the Broncos outlasted Brewer 55-46 in a battle of the unbeatens played before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,100 fans.
“The environment was great,” said Bartlett. “And to find a way to win that game with the adversity we had this week, I was really proud of my kids.”
Chasse, a senior guard, scored a career-high 18 points to help the defending state champions improve their record to 7-0 and survive as the lone remaining undefeated team in Class A North after Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston fell to Messalonskee of Oakland earlier in the day.
Wolfington, a sophomore guard who had been splitting his time between the varsity and junior varsity teams, nailed a pair of 3-pointers from the right corner during the second half — each a dagger-like stroke that served in the first case to hold Brewer at bay and in the second case to help Hampden build an insurmountable double-digit lead.
“His foot speed gave us some fresh legs to pressure the ball and those two threes obviously were momentum swingers when we needed them because in the third quarter we could not score,” said Bartlett. “I thought we lost our legs. The adrenaline kept us going in the first half and then the third quarter we really saw that we were running on fumes and we had to find a way.
Senior guard Nick Gilpin, who along with classmates Brendan McIntyre and Jake Black entered the game hobbled by recent ankle injuries, added 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Hampden, which never trailed during the contest but never felt comfortable with its lead until the final minutes.
That’s because Hampden could not find a way to contain Brewer star Matt Pushard.
Despite being routinely double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed, the 6-foot-4 senior forward amassed a game-high 25 points to go with eight rebounds, with 15 points coming during a first half when he made all five of his field-goal attempts — including three from beyond the 3-point arc.
“He definitely is really hard to guard,” said Gilpin, who often left his defensive assignment on the perimeter to double-team Pushard near the basket. “He was doing well in the post and then I think he was 3-for-3 from the 3-point line.
Hampden won by outrebounding the smaller Witches 37-18 and limiting the offensive contributions of Pushard’s teammates, who combined for just 21 points on 8 of 31 shooting from the field overall, 3 of 19 from 3-point land.
“Our game plan was to definitely try to get the ball out of [Pushard’s] hands as much as possible,” said Gilpin. “Obviously we didn’t do that too well, but eliminating everybody else was what really got us the win.”
Two early 3-pointers by Black and a third by Chasse helped Hampden maintain a 14-13 lead after the first quarter.
That advantage grew to 32-22 with 1:39 left in the half after a 9-2 run that featured a 3-pointer, a pull-up jumper and an a dribble-penetration assist from Gilpin.
Yet Brewer regained contact before the break, with Jamison Rhoades-Doyle making two free throws and Pushard powering in a 3-pointer from beyond the key to cut the deficit to 32-27.
Coach Clayton Blood’s club (7-1) got as close as 34-33 on a lay-in by Carter Smith with 2:24 left in the third quarter, but Wolfington then took a pass from Chasse and buried his first shot of the game from long distance to quell that momentum and force an immediate Brewer timeout.
Hampden took a 39-35 lead into the final period, and Wolfington soon followed two Chasse free throws with another blast from 3-point territory to give the Broncos a 44-36 lead and force yet another Brewer timeout with 6:35 left in the game.
Brewer crept back within 46-40 when Pushard grabbed an offensive rebound and fed sophomore Kobe Rogerson for a 3-pointer.
But McIntyre followed in his own miss and Chasse added six points in the final three minutes to help Hampden extend a home winning streak that began on Martin Luther King Day 2010.
“Coming in with all the injuries I definitely had to step it up a little,” said Chasse. “I came out trying to maybe make a shot, maybe make a defensive play and draw a charge, and I definitely think I did that tonight.”