Jair Johnson Jr. of Central Maine Community College drives to the basket against Sam Dorissaint of NHTI during the second half in Auburn on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Elijah Barbour and Corey David didn’t have good shooting days for Central Maine Community College, but the veteran players made a couple big plays when it mattered most.

After letting a big lead slip away in the first half, the Mustangs did the same in the second, but those big plays from Barbour and David late were the difference as CMCC to held on for an 82-77 victory over NHTI, Concord’s Community College, in a Yankee Small College Conference men’s basketball game at Kirk Hall on Wednesday.

“We’ve got four or five guys that are experienced, that have played in big games before, that’s been through this before,” CMCC coach Dave Gonyea said. “So for them, even though I put a lot of pressure on them, they handle it pretty well, and I thought they made some really good decisions down the stretch.”

Barbour hit his second 3-pointer of the game — on a game-high 13 attempts — with 45 seconds left, giving the Mustangs (7-1, 3-1 YSCC) a 79-75 lead, then pulled down the rebound at the other end after NHTI’s J’Quavious Thurmond missed an answering shot.

Thurmond did make a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left to draw the defending YSCC champion Lynx (5-1, 2-1 YSCC) within two, but David — who was 0 for 3 from 3-point range and 3 of 11 overall — made one free throw with 6.3 seconds left and grabbed his own rebound after missing his second attempt.

“They seemed to get almost all the loose balls, and I think that was one of the keys of the game, was that they seemed to get so many of the loose rebounds that fell in, or hit the floor. They just seemed to come up with it,” NHTI coach Paul Hogan said.

The shooting woes began early for the Mustangs, who missed their first trio of 3s and a pair of foul shots before Jair Johnson Jr.’s and-one a little more than two minutes in put them on the board after NHTI scored the game’s first points.

Sam Dorissaint answered with a layup for the Lynx, but then Mustangs went on a 12-0 run to take control of the game. They kept that hold on the contest until another make from Dorissaint started a 10-0 NHTI scoring streak with 2:45 left in the half.

“Our defense the first 15 minutes of that game was the best defense we could play,” Gonyea said. “I think that sometimes we get a little too comfortable, and we settle for a little bit, and our defense is not as intense. We took the foot off the gas pedal a little bit, and you get in trouble then. That’s when they came back.”

The Lynx took a brief lead when Jaeven Dobbins got a hoop-and-harm and Deric Jackson put back the missed free throw, but Josh Chery’s floater with 21 seconds left gave the Mustangs a 37-36 lead that they took into halftime.

Again the Mustangs pulled away in the second half, jumping out to a 51-41 lead on a layup from David less than five minutes in. The Lynx whittled that advantage to seven, but Barbour made a transition layup with just over eight minutes left to grow the lead to a game-high 13 points.

“We knew eventually that Barbour … was going to hit some shots,” Hogan said. “He hit some shots at key junctures late in the game.”

The lead was at 12 after Cody Tozier’s 3 with just under six minutes to play, but the Lynx stormed back with an 11-0 run that cut the deficit down to one, 74-73, with 2:44 left, on the first of two free throws by Torrie Perry, who missed the second with a chance to tie.

Johnson (16 rebounds) and Freddy Webb paced the Mustangs with 13 points apiece, while Chery and Barbour each had 12 and David and Rodney Theodore both chipped in 10. CMCC shot just 38.6 percent for the game (32 for 83), while NHTI shot 50 percent on 30 of 60 shooting. Thurmond led all scorers with 19 (and 11 rebounds), while Dorissaint added 15.

“I just think CM, playing on their home court, played really hard, really, they played well,” Hogan said. “They shot pretty well in stretches, and, you know, we just tried to hang around and see if we could, you know, steal a game, so to speak. We didn’t shoot as well as we’ve been shooting, but, you know, it’s our first kind of real road game.”

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Freddy Webb of Central Maine Community College drives to the basket against J’Quavious Thurmond of NHTI during the second half in Auburn on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Can Duncan of Central Maine Community College reacts after a first half basket against NHTI in Auburn on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Rodney Theodore of Central Maine Community College moves the ball up the court during the first half against NHTI in Auburn on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)