TOPSHAM — When the halftime buzzer sounded Friday, the Mt. Ararat High School boys’ basketball team did not make their usual trek to the locker room, instead gathering around head coach Steve Cox in front of the Eagles’ bench.

Cox didn’t yell —the Eagles led by four at the break against Leavitt.

Part of the reason for the Eagles staying on the court was likely to honor athletic director Todd Sampson, who will finish his tenure at Mt. Ararat next Friday before heading to Edward Little as the school’s new vice principal.

Whatever the reason for the unorthodox halftime routine, Mt. Ararat played with a ferocity not seen for a long while in the second half, pressing full court constantly and exploding for 29 third-quarter points to take control in a 70-44 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference victory over the Hornets, who fell to 1-12.

On the other side, Mt. Ararat improved to 9-3 with its sixth straight win and most dominating performance to date. The Eagles also have a week off before visiting Camden Hills.

“We were feeling good, knowing that we needed to break away in the second half and play the basketball that we can,” said Mt. Ararat guard Eric Segars, who canned three 3-pointers in the third quarter for nine points.

Shyheim Ulrickson scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the frame.

“We can’t think that teams can’t beat us,” Segars said. “They wouldn’t go away in the first half. We needed to come out and run the ball up the court. We knew that they couldn’t keep with us if we did that.”

Close first half

There was little to believe that Mt. Ararat was going to be able to pull away from Hornets, who were coming off their first win on Thursday against Morse. Plus, Leavitt hung tough in a season-opening 47-43 loss to the Eagles.

Maxwell Green canned a 3-pointer to give Leavitt a 5-4 lead, and despite the Eagles running off the final six points of the quarter for a 10-5 advantage, Leavitt hung in throughout the first half.

Green led the Hornets with eight first-half points, with Levi Craig adding seven.

Mt. Ararat forward Alex LaFountain hurt the Hornets inside. He scored six points in both the first and second quarters, along with pulling down six offensive boards, as the Eagles carried a four-point lead to the break.

LaFountain’s presence in the paint caused a change for Mike Hathaway’s defense. The Hornets began the second half intent on keeping LaFountain off the boards.

However, Segars nailed his first two treys to open the third for a 33-23 Mt. Ararat lead, and Ulrickson and Segars kept it going with two more deep 3-pointers as the Eagles’ lead stretched out to 39-27 with 5:40 left in the third.

“We had to pack it in defense because LaFountain hurt us so bad in the first half on the boards, and some of those other guys got going off Shy’s penetration and that hurt us,” said Hathaway. “We burned a couple timeouts, but they kept shooting it and kept making them.”

Cox talked about Segars, who finished with 11 points.

“Eric is a fun kid and can fill it up like nobody. When we get him playing a complete game, he really contributes,” said Cox.

Ulrickson tallied six straight points, and LaFountain finished off his 14-point effort by converting a Cole Guerin feed for a 47-27 Mt. Ararat advantage.

Cox continued to insert fresh players into the game, like Ryan Mello, who contributed four points and three steals in a brief third-quarter appearance, and Jacob Steinman, who blocked a pair of shots in spelling LaFountain. The Eagles led 56-30 heading to the fourth.

“We go pretty deep on the bench, and I have 10 kids who are getting quality minutes, and I think we will be better because of it,” said Cox. “When we go inside-out, we are better. Then the shots started falling. Whoever I bring into the game, I am looking for them to make an impact. When they positively impact the game, we do well.”

The Mt. Ararat lead ballooned to a game-high 31 points, 61-35, on a Guerin finish before both coaches emptied their benches to finish out the contest.

With five games remaining in the regular season for Leavitt, Hathaway said his team will work hard this week.

“We will come out and try to beat Westbrook next Friday,” said Hathaway.

Ulrickson had a double-double with 10 rebounds and picked up four assists and four steals. LaFountain had eight boards, with Garrett Bolduc adding three steals.

Green paced Leavitt with 13 points, with Craig adding 11 points and three assists. Eli Calder finished with seven points.


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