WISCASSET — Monmouth Academy boys’ basketball coach Lucas Turner has looked for consistency from his young team as the Mountain Valley Conference season nears a conclusion. The Mustangs were clinging to their playoff lives coming into Monday’s contest against Wiscasset, residing in the 11th and final position in Western Class C.
Monday’s 63-49 loss will not help that playoff push, especially after the Wolverines pressed Monmouth all over the court while dominating the second half to the tune of a 44-24 scoring advantage.
It turned a 25-19 Mustangs halftime lead into the ninth Monmouth loss of the campaign (6-9), with defending Class C champion Dirigo scheduled to visit Monmouth on Thursday.
“We were spot on in the first half defensively, knowing they have fast guards, and I thought we did really good,” said Turner after watching his Mustangs hold Wiscasset to just six second-quarter points. “The second half, (Wiscasset coach) Dana (Lawrence) made an adjustment, pressed us, and we had trouble adjusting.
“If we would have been able to score the first two times they pressed, we would have been OK. Instead, one ball slips through hands, and we turn it over again. It was a struggle from there.”
“They are like us, young, and our thought were to turn up the defense, and that leads to our offense,” said Lawrence, who watched his Wolverines shoot 59 percent (16 of 27) from the floor in the second half.”
Wiscasset held Monmouth scoreless over the first four minutes of the contest, taking a 7-0 lead behind four points from freshman J.D. Souza.
Billy Cummings came off the Mustangs bench to light a fuse. The senior drained a 3-pointer for Monmouth’s first points. Monmouth trailed 13-7 after a quarter. Souza had seven for Wiscasset.
Monmouth took over in the second quarter. Back-to-back treys by Cummings gave the Mustangs the lead, and Drew McFarren drove to the basket for four points as Monmouth claimed the six-point halftime lead.
Cummings spearheaded the visitors’ attack, scoring 11 first-half points as the Monmouth bench held a 16-1 scoring advantage.
“Billy could be starting, but I am just looking at matchups against teams with some dynamite guards,” said Turner of Cummings, who scored a game-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers. “We don’t normally have somebody that scores 15 consistently, but a bunch of guys that can score eight or 10.”
Wiscasset showed a different look after Travis Padilla scored to begin the second half. The Wolverines pressed all over the court, causing headaches for Monmouth, which committed 19 second-half turnovers after only eight in the first half.
After Wiscasset drew to 25-23, the Mustangs seemed to figure things out, getting a 3-pointer from Cummings for a 29-23 lead.
A short jumper by Brett Wilson made for a 33-30 Monmouth advantage with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
The wheels fell off from there, as Wiscasset reeled off a 12-0 run for a 42-33 lead, with Souza draining a 3-pointer on his way to 19 points for Wiscasset.
Monmouth drew to 44-37 on a Marcques Houston putback, but Wiscasset put the contest away with a 9-0 run as the lead expanded to 16 points, 53-37, with 3:09 remaining.
“Monmouth is a good ball club, so it is a big win to keep them behind us,” said Lawrence, whose Wolverines are 8-6 and visit Mt. Abram on Thursday. “This game was very big for us after two tight losses. We have a tough schedule down the stretch (Mountain Valley, Oak Hill, Boothbay), so we will need to keep playing well.”
“The new term in the locker room is ’32 minutes,’ and I felt tonight for 24, 28 minutes we showed that can play with anybody in this conference, but tonight it was six or eight minutes that killed us,” said Turner.
Monmouth was 15 of 40 (37 percent) from the floor and made 14 of 20 free throws.
McFarren added seven points, while Wilson had six points, three steals and three assists. Brandon Goff and Houston chipped in five points each, with Houston pulling down six rebounds.
Souza added six rebounds, five assists and four steals for Wiscasset, while Padilla, Chandler Longfellow and Haskell each scored 10 points. Dale Peaslee chipped in seven points and six rebounds.