PARIS – Cougars can’t go from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds like, say, a cheetah can. But the Mt. Blue Cougars showed Saturday night that they can go from 42-40 to 82-47 in about 14 minutes and look just as sleek.

After not being able to shake Oxford Hills for a little over two quarters, Mt. Blue dominated most of the second half and pulled away for an impressive 82-47 victory, giving head coach Jim Bessey his 399th career win.

Senior Isaiah Brathwaite played a masterful game at both ends of the floor, tallying 33 points and 10 rebounds. He also blocked three shots, collected seven steals and numerous other deflections.

“Needless to say, when Isaiah plays like that, that makes us quite a bit better,” Bessey said. “(On defense) one time, he had something like three deflections. He had a great game, and I thought as a team, offensively, we played very well in the second half.”

“We were able to pull away just by playing hard-nosed, halfcourt defense,” Brathwaite said. “We wanted to pick it up on defense and make sure we stopped their dribble penetration. Once we picked up our defense and made some stops, we just started to execute our transition offense.”

Trailing by six at halftime, Oxford Hills (2-4) pulled to within 42-40 on an Ethan Sutton reverse layup and a Brandon Moffett layup off a Sutton steal with 5:50 to go. That, however, would be the last field goal for over 10 minutes for the Vikings, who shot 4-for-23 in the second half. Mt. Blue dropped out of its fullcourt press and focused on shutting down Sutton and Moffett’s dribble penetration. The Vikings were helpless after that.

“Defensively, we kind of established ourselves and then rebounded the basketball very well. We got back into halfcourt and hunkered down defensively, because when we opened up the floor (in the first half), they split us and got a lot of easy shots,” Bessey said. “We got great transition and got a lot of easy baskets. We passed the ball very well.”

“The most disappointing thing for us was, playing halfcourt man, we couldn’t beat them down the court,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “It’s a testament to how quick they are. They obviously knew that they were going to own the backboards so they could put a guy out there at halfcourt and just send it.”

The Cougars pulled away with a 19-1 run to close the third quarter. Brathwaite got it started by scoring off a nice feed from Noah Paytas. Mike Toothaker followed with a layup and Paytas with a three-point play. Brathwaite’s free throws with 3:54 left in the period put the lead into double digits for good.

Mt. Blue (6-1) led throughout a first half filled with mini-spurts by both teams. The Cougars set the tone with an early 7-0 lead and rode Brathwaite’s hot hand (11 first quarter points) to a 16-12 cushion after one. Neither team could stop the other with fullcourt pressure, and the Cougars opened leads of 27-17, 34-23 and 42-32 in a high-scoring second quarter. But the Vikings were dead on from the foul line (14-for-15) and were able to claw their way back into the game each time.

Paytas finished with 12 points for Mt. Blue, while Adam Gilbert added seven and 16 rebounds. Sutton led Oxford Hills with 10, while Moffett and Thomas McGee added nine apiece.


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