FAIRFIELD — Jim Bessey and the Mt. Blue Cougars don’t hide their offensive intentions. Their plan of pounding the ball inside to Cam Sennick and Nick Hilton is well known around the KVAC. But even though other teams know its coming, the inside game is hard to stop.
Friday night, Sennick and Hilton gave the Lawrence Bulldogs fits inside by combining for 40 points as the Cougars captured an important 65-62 victory inside a raucous gymnasium.
“We love playing when it’s loud,” said Sennick, who unofficially added seven rebounds and three blocked shots to go along with team-high 22 points. “This place gets really loud. It gets us motivated.”
With the score tied at 29-29 heading into the third quarter, the Cougars (14-4) came out of the locker room on fire, outscoring the Bulldogs (10-6) by a 19-4 margin. Their red-hot offense was matched by a stifling defense, which held the home team without a field goal until the 1:44 mark of the quarter.
Sennick and Hilton combined for 13 points in the pivotal third which began with a 3-pointer by guard Steven Yardley. Minutes later it was Blake Hart finding a streaking Sennick in the lane for a transition bucket as the Cougars went up 35-29.
While the Cougars piled up points, the Bulldogs missed shots they had made in the first half. The home team had their share of offensive rebounds in the stanza, but the more they shot the more they missed.
“We played two or three different defenses,” said Bessey, “They just didn’t shoot as well as they did in the first half.”
After a trifecta by Hart, Mt. Blue went back inside. Sennick had eaten the Bulldogs up to the tune of 16 points before the intermission, and then it was Hilton’s turn in the third. A turnaround baseline jumper ignited a conventional 3-point play. The lanky senior followed that up with a pair of baskets inside the paint. Hilton finished with 18 points.
Late in the quarter, a Sennick lay-in resulted in the Cougars largest lead of the night at 48-31.
“We just never handled Sennick,” said Lawrence coach Mike McGee. “He’s a beast. He controlled the game.”
All game long, the Bulldogs tried different defensive looks with all of them having multiple players swarming down low each time Sennick touched the ball. The senior center seldom missed. He would just leap up and reach over the outstretched arms of the defenders to score basket after basket.
“I’ve been around for 30 years,” said McGee. “We tried everything, including the kitchen sink.”
The Bulldogs made things interesting in the fourth behind the shooting of point guard Emmitt Faulkner who led all scorers with 23 points despite playing with a cracked vertebra. With his team trailing by 15, Faulkner scored on four consecutive trips down the floor. After a successful drive to the hoop, Faulkner fooled the Cougars by inbounding the ball off the back of Sennick before he stepped into play to lay the ball in behind the Mt. Blue center. Moments later he drove for another score before draining a 3-pointer from the wing which prompted Bessey to signal a timeout with 2:22 left to play and the Cougars’ lead down to 60-53.
Any thoughts of overtaking the Cougars dissipated as the visitors went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the game’s final minute. Tim Dudley’s offensive putback pulled the Bulldogs to within three points just before the final buzzer.
Spencer Carey added 14 points while Keith Chesley added 11 in the losing effort.
“We did hold on at the end to get the job done,” said Bessey. “We had a pretty good week by beating Bangor at Bangor and Lawrence at home.”