AUGUSTA — The game that delivered the fatal final blow to Oxford Hills’ post-season hopes looked eerily similar to the previous 15.

Too few of the Vikings’ shots fell throughout their 61-55 loss to Cony Thursday night, and that allowed the Rams to virtually clinch a spot in the Eastern Class A tournament while eliminating Oxford Hills.

“That’s been the story of the year,” said Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam, whose team shot 34 percent from the field and made seven of 14 free throw attempts. “This is a group that hasn’t shot the ball real well all season. But they worked their butts off. They’re one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever had.”

Oxford Hills (6-10) whittled a 10-point deficit a minute into the fourth quarter down to five with 3:31 to go on Matt Verrier’s 3-pointer. Ryan Monoty drilled a pair of free throws for Cony, but the Vikes pulled within five again on a nice drive-and-dish by Nate Dubois to Matt McVety with 1:44 remaining. They had several opportunities to make it a one-possession game in the next 1:20, but only found frustration, starting with a Jake Hall steal and layup try that rolled off the front of the rim.

After Cony missed a free throw, the teams exchanged turnover, then the Vikings missed two more shots that would have cut the margin to three. Robert Foss made one of two from the charity stripe to put Cony up six, then Hall sunk a 3-pointer to finally get them to within three, 58-55, with 24 seconds left.

Monoty sank a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left, and Hall missed a 3-pointer with 12 ticks remaining to seal the Vikings’ fate.

“They battle, they battle, they battle, and they just have a hard time scoring,” Graffam said. “They had a chance to roll over tonight and they didn’t, I’m very proud of the way they played.”

“We knew they weren’t going to go away,” said Cony coach Tim Bonsant, whose team never trailed. “They made it a ballgame. Luckily, we had enough free throws at the end. We missed some which kept the door open for them.”

The Rams (8-8) struggled from the line (13-for-23) but not the floor, hitting 54 percent of their shots. Ryan Monoty scored a game-high 23 points to go with six rebounds, but several other Cony players stepped up with big quarters. Jake Lachance (10 points, six assists) scored the Rams’ first eight points in the second quarter as they opened up a 27-16 lead. Walker Cooper scored seven of his 12 points in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer with three seconds left to give the Rams a 48-39 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Cony pounded the ball inside early and often. It showed patience and worked the Vikings’ collapsing defense for open 3’s by Monoty and and Adam Whittier that built a 15-8 lead. 

“We were trying to get the ball inside in the first half, look to go inside-out,” Bonsant said. “We knew we were a little bit bigger than they were.”

Verrier led Oxford Hills with 18 points and eight rebounds. Hall added 11 and seven boards and McVety had 10 points.  

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