READFIELD — The Black Bears may have come up short of their intended goal on Friday night, but they’ll be able to live with the result.
Maranacook remained unbeaten on the young season with a 90-44 win over Poland in a Class B South boys basketball contest featuring two teams trying to form their own identities. The Black Bears (2-0) are getting used to life under the uptempo Grinnell System valuing quantity over quality, while the Knights (0-2) are trying to bring an inexperienced team up to speed as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately for Poland, it wasn’t quick enough in this one.
Maranacook raced out to a 22-2 lead in the first five and half minutes of the game and never looked back. The Black Bears had four players hit double figures, including junior guard Mitchell Root with a game-high 16 points, and forced the Knights into a total of 42 turnovers — including 26 in the first half alone.
“We’re just trying to push guys to the side and have somebody back that comes up and jumps,” Root said of the Black Bears’ full-court pressure. “Hopefully, they panic and turn the ball over so we get steals off passes.”
Against a pair of freshmen and a sophomore in the Poland backcourt, that’s exactly what the Black Bears were able to force the visitors to do. During one key stretch in the first half, Poland turned the ball over on seven out of nine consecutive possessions — five times not even getting to the midcourt stripe before the ball was back in Maranacook’s hands.
“These guys are just really athletic and competitive,” Maranacook head coach Rob Schmidt said. “They’ve learned a lot on the basketball court and in other sports they’ve played, so our goal really is just to let them be athletes and have fun. I think that’s what they’re doing right now.”
“When you’re not used to it, what it does is takes you out of your comfort zone so you don’t see everything,” Poland coach Tyler Tracy said. “Teams like Maranacook, they’re athletic and strong. They’re veterans, and they’re used to this. They take advantage and make you pay.”
As Maranacook breaks in its new system this season, Schmidt said there is only one goal for his group each night — one which values volume over precision.
“Part of what we want to do this year is put a lot of shots up,” Schmidt said. “Eighty shots per game is what we want. We’re more concerned with number of shots right now. Obviously, the more that go in, the higher the (shooting) percentage, the more points we score and the better off we are.”
Schmidt will be disappointed to learn that his team came up two shot attempts shy of the target, firing off 78 field goal tries on the night. But the Black Bears connected on 27 of those — including 13 from beyond the 3-point arc, where they shot at a 25 percent success rate — which was more than enough against a Poland team that made only 16 field goals in all.
It was the kind of night that, while hectic and imperfect, the players themselves imagined when Schmidt began installing the system over the summer.
“It’s so much fun. In practice, we get up 100 shots per day per person,” Root said. “We just shoot all the time. Shooting’s fun, and we enjoy that. We’re a team full of shooters, so we just shoot.
“It was kind of a spectacle at first, but when we started getting into it during summer ball, we enjoyed it. Playing together, it’s a good group of guys to play with, so we’re having fun with it.”
Junior Jarred Schmidt finished with 12 points, while freshman Cash McClure and junior Duncan Rogers each added 10 points. Schmidt connected for three 3-pointers, while McClure and Rogers each made two from long range.
Thirteen of the 15 Maranacook players to appear in the game found their way into the scorebook.
Late in the second quarter, Silas Mohlar made a layup in transition and Rogers drained a 3-pointer from the right side to build a 48-14 lead. Maranacook took a 51-23 lead into the intermission, which was more than enough to nurse to the final whistle.
“It’s hard to simulate that in practice,” Tracy said. “We knew (Maranacook) were going to do that. At halftime, with a young team, we said, ‘It’s tied. Let’s get better this half.’ We didn’t do any major adjustments, but we just wanted to go out and play and do what we love to do.
“Obviously, the scoreboard, that’s tough. But hopefully we get better from this.”
Senior Peter Bolduc led the Knights with 13 points, the only Poland player with more than six.