AUBURN — The calendar says November, but the way Central Maine Community College and NHTI, Concord’s Community College, were playing Thursday night it might as well have said February.

The top two teams in the Yankee Small College Conference entering play battled like it was a playoff matchup, and it was the Lynx who handed the Mustangs their first loss while scoring a big road victory, 96-90, in men’s basketball action at Kirk Hall.

“This is always a good road test, when you come to Central Maine,” NHTI coach Paul Hogan said. “And if you can sneak a win out of here — it’s a tough place to play, they’re a good team, well-coached — so from that standpoint, it’s a great win.”

It was a fast pace right from the start, and the emotion and intensity of February postseason basketball soon followed. Back and forth the host Mustangs (6-1, 3-1 YSCC) and the Lynx (5-1, 4-0) went, finally coming to a stop at halftime tied 44-44. NHTI led by five early, CMCC took four-point leads on a few occasions, and the lead changed hands nine times in the first 20 minutes.

The Lynx used their advantage inside, especially Tyler Hunter, who was 6-for-6 from the floor with 13 points off the bench in the first half.

“Tyler Hunter was a tough matchup for them once he got in there,” Hogan said.


“They have a couple of guys that can just really get after it, and they did,” CMCC coach Dave Gonyea said.

The Mustangs hit on six 3-point attempts in the first half (to just one for NHTI) to even things out.

The pace slowed after the break, with both teams getting more methodical on offense. CMCC took another four-point lead early, but NHTI countered with an 11-2 run to grab hold of momentum. The Lynx advantage soon grew to seven, then nine, then 11 as they out-muscled the Mustangs down low.

“We want to control the tempo of the game, and I think we did in the first half a lot,” Gonyea said. “In the second half, I think we lost control of the tempo … right about the six, seven-minute mark of the second half we lost control of the tempo of the game and we had to play from behind a little more. And that’s something new for us. We’ve not done that a lot.”

The Mustangs did themselves in with countless careless turnovers, much to the chagrin of Gonyea, who said the 19 his team committed was “more than normal.”

CMCC — along with the home crowd — tried to will itself back into the game, but a transition layup by NHTI’s J’Quay Thurmond grew the advantage to 13 with less than six minutes to play as the pace sped back up.


“I think our kids dug a little hole there and tried to come out of it too quick, when we’re not mature enough yet to understand the game’s a 40-minute game and to play for 40 minutes,” Gonyea said. “And once we figured that out we climbed back in it.”

Persistence paid off in part for the Mustangs, who shrunk the deficit to five on an Akeem Laurie 3 with 2:30 left. A Josh Chery put-back of a Laurie missed 3 brought CMCC within 94-90 with 42.8 seconds to go, but that was as close as it would get.

“Our guys work hard to the end, and they are focused to the end, and passionate to the end,” Gonyea said.

Hunter finished with 19 points, hitting on all nine of his field-goal attempts. Thurmond led all scorers with 25, including 15 in the second half.

Elijah Barbour paced the Mustangs with 19, while Laurie and Chery each added 18.


NHTI’s Isaiah Joseph, right, tears the ball away from CMCC’s Zavier Roman as they vie for a rebound during Thursday night’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

NHTI’s Tyler Hunter denies CMCC’s Josh Chery as he drives for a layup during Thursday night’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

CMCC’s Akeem Laurie, left, drives to the basket past NHTI’s Tyler Hunter during Thursday night’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

CMCC’s Corey David, right, is fouled by NHTI’s Aubrey Stephens as he drives to the basket during Thursday night’s men’s basketball game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

CMCC head coach Dave Gonyea, right, watches Akeem Laurie fire up a shot during Thursday’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Despite being double teamed, NHTI’s Tyler Hunter muscles to the basket for two points during Thursday’s game in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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