JAY — Deonte Ring outscored Maine Central Institute by himself Thursday night, but the Spruce Mountain senior had a hard time believing it.
Seven free throws that rolled off the rim and a smattering of runners and jumpers that fell inches shy of the mark were still floating through Ring’s head after his 30 points, nine rebounds and seven steals highlighted a 51-26 KVAC boys’ basketball win at the Phoenix Nest.
“It didn’t feel like I had too many,” Ring said. “Normally we’re more balanced. It seemed like a lot of our shots weren’t falling. We used our speed. We base it off defense so we can get a lot of steals and some easy points.”
Spruce Mountain (2-0) cruised, even if the engine coughed from time to time, in its first home game since moving over from the MVC.
The Phoenix led 18-15 with 2:51 remaining in the first half before Ring scored seven consecutive points. That came in the middle of a stretch in which he notched 20 of 22 for Spruce Mountain.
Ring rattled off the first nine points of the third quarter to give the Phoenix an insurmountable 36-17 advantage. MCI (2-1) turned it over on nine consecutive possessions to start the half and 37 times overall.
“He left some points on the table. I need to work with him on that, because I think sometimes he floats, like there isn’t enough power in his game,” Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey said of Ring. “It was one of those nights. Thank God we played good defense and got those athletes out in the open floor.”
Austin Darling added seven points for Spruce Mountain. He and his brother, Andrew, combined for seven steals.
Todor Imsir and Gunner Lovely scored six points apiece for MCI, which led 11-9 after one quarter and 13-12 early in the second before Ring turned on the afterburners.
Imsir had 27 points in a road win over 2014 Class C West finalist Maranacook, a result that seemed to indicate the Phoenix were in for more of a fight.
“It’s an unknown opponent who played us very physical,” Bessey said. “It was our home opener. There are high expectations. I think there were nerves, anxiety, and a little stress. Some people were dripping with it.”
Spruce Mountain battled the whistles early.
After hitting a 3-pointer 48 seconds into the game, Peter Theriault was saddled with three quick fouls and went to the bench early in the second period.
The Phoenix led 7-2 before a technical foul against Andrew Darling triggered a 7-0 Huskies run. Imsir and Lovely were a combined 5-of-6 from the line in that sequence.
“I don’t think we came out like we normally do,” Ring said. “Then in the second quarter we came back to how we normally play, and it worked out pretty good. Force turnovers and run the court.”
Austin Darling’s drive to the basket put Spruce ahead to stay with 4:21 to go in the half.
Caulin Parker then hit a cutting Brandon Walp for two, and Ring raced coast-to-coast after a steal to kick-start the Phoenix.
“It was one of those grinds,” Bessey said. “I think if you talk to most of them, they would say they didn’t play well. It was a struggle.”
Spruce Mountain shot only 34 percent from the field and 50 percent from the line. Theriault’s 3-pointer out of the gate was the only one for the Phoenix.
The KVAC newcomers are still in Class B West, where they felt mildly disrespected by one preseason poll that didn’t place them in the top eight after a quarterfinal loss to Poland last winter.
“That gets talked about,” Bessey said. “That’s a chip on their shoulder. And we’ve earned it. Every time we’ve had a chance to prove ourselves, we’ve choked. We have to prove ourselves.”