JAY — Spruce Mountain boys’ basketball players and coaches don’t deny their tendency to win games without accumulating style points.
They’re also the first to point out that it beats the alternative.
“We’d rather win ugly than lose ugly,” said Spruce Mountain coach Chris Bessey, whose team snagged its sixth straight MVC victory Friday night, 49-42 over Winthrop at the Phoenix Nest.
Three-pointers by Tyler Kachnovich, John McKenna and Scottie Hall highlighted an 11-2 run connecting the third and fourth quarters that spelled triumph for the Phoenix (10-4).
Exceptional work on the defensive glass by Kachnovich, Anthony York and Peter Theriault also played a role, as did Deonte Ring’s sacrificing his body to draw two offensive fouls against Winthrop (8-6) in the fourth quarter.
“We focused on defense more. Our coach emphasized it, and that kind of sparked our offense,” Theriault said. “At the beginning of the season our defense was pretty ugly. Now we’re picking it up.”
Hall finished with a game-high 11 points and Kachnovich added 10. Each scored seven in the second half. McKenna and Andrew Darling contributed eight points apiece.
Theriault, Spruce Mountain’s sophomore point guard, scored all four of his points from the free throw line in the final 26 seconds. He also yanked down nine rebounds and dished out seven assists, steadying an offense that took a while to find its footing.
“We missed quite a few layups early that could have made it a little prettier,” Bessey said. “We usually make those.”
It was a clash of two likely tournament teams that are startlingly young but have been red-hot in January. Each entered the night No. 6 in its Western Maine region — Spruce in Class B; Winthrop in Class C.
The Ramblers bid farewell to a three-game winning streak. Crispin Banda led Winthrop with 10 points, six of those on first-period 3-pointers. Ben Allen added nine points, six rebounds and five steals.
“It was a battle. I think some of our weaknesses might have been exposed,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “Maybe our youth, some of the breakdowns defensively, and our depth. They were deeper than us. I think for the first time all year we actually wore down. Usually we wear other people down.”
Winthrop led most of the first half, grabbing its biggest margin at 20-15 on a Hunter Kilgore runner with 2:56 to go.
The Phoenix pitched a shutout from there until intermission. Short jumpers by McKenna and Ring resuscitated Spruce’s offense, and Kachnovich’s 3-pointer supplied a 22-20 halftime edge.
Seven different players scored for Spruce Mountain in the first half, when both teams struggled equally at 8-for-27 from the field.
“Every night somebody steps up,” Theriault said.
Spruce’s success early in the fourth yielded a 43-33 lead with 5:04 to play.
Allen, Matt Sekarak and Dakota Carter scored the next seven unanswered points for Winthrop, putting them one stop away from having a chance to tie the game. But Kachnovich cashed in on a backdoor cut, courtesy of a Nate Hamblin dish, to give the Phoenix breathing room in the final minute.
“We went through a five-minute stretch where our offense was very slow with less movement, and it hurt us,” MacArthur said. “We let them back into the game, and they extended that lead and we couldn’t make our run.”