POLAND – Poland Regional High School has changed its point of emphasis from height to havoc.

The Knights don’t have a big target in the middle any longer. They have adapted quite literally on the fly, however, as evidenced by Thursday night’s 56-38 Western Maine Conference boys’ basketball triumph over Wells.

Joe Douglass propelled Poland with 20 points and Tyler Merchant added 14, leading the new-look but senior-dominated Knights to their second straight victory after an opening-night loss to Falmouth.

“We did a really good job pushing the ball up the floor,” said Poland coach Chris Willer. “That’s sort of become our philosophy. (Wells) came out in a zone, and if we push the ball, that zone doesn’t have time to set up.”

As for Poland’s defense, it permitted eight 3-pointers but virtually nothing else. Wells (0-3) put up only three points in the fourth quarter, when the Knights doubled their 44-35 lead and turned on the cruise control.

Mimi Knowles made five steals to complement his nine points. T.J. England added seven points.

Brandon Stevens led the Warriors with 17 points, including four 3-pointers.

None of Poland’s leading scorers in the win were taller than 5-foot-11. That’s a far cry from the last two years, when 6-7 center Jon Lecznar (now at Wheaton College in Massachusetts) steered the Knights to their first two appearances ever in the Western Class B quarterfinals.

“Our next tallest player is 6-3 or maybe 6-4, and he’s only a sophomore,” said Willer. “But we’ve got a good group of guards.”

Douglass, who is 5-10, and the 5-11 Merchant each grabbed seven rebounds to neutralize the bigger Warriors in the paint.

After struggling mightily for nearly a decade to get its program off the ground in the powerful WMC, Poland appears to have turned the corner. The Knights host rival Lake Region on Saturday. Their toughest remaining tests against Cape Elizabeth and Greely don’t come until mid-January.

“These seniors have been part of that first group to make it to the (Cumberland County) Civic Center,” Willer said. “Their goal this year is to win a quarterfinal game.”


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