Oxford Hills’ Will Dieterich goes up against Bangor’s Isaac Cummings on Tuesday in Paris. (Brewster Burns photo)

PARIS — Coaches often preach that good defense leads to easier offense, but Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam was hoping for the opposite from his Vikings on Wednesday night.

Oxford Hills finished at the basket and kept Bangor out of the running game that shredded the Vikings the first time the two teams met this season and avenged that loss with a 53-47 victory, handing the Rams their first loss of the season.

Spencer Strong had 20 points and four assists to lead the Vikings, who have now won four in a row after losing their first three games of the season, including a 65-47 loss at Bangor on Dec. 11. Will Dietrich added 16 points and eight rebounds, while Patrick Paine and Tanner Herrick led an excellent effort by the bench with five and six points, respectively.

“I think the key was just keeping the pressure up and making sure that we got out to their shooters,” Strong said. “Last time we played them, 3s killed us, especially out of the half. They sunk three in a row.”

“Up there, they scored 45 points in the second half off of us. They had seven 3-pointers,” Graffam said. “It wasn’t that we couldn’t get to them. They made shots. Part of the problem was we couldn’t score in the second half. When we don’t score, they get run outs and their shots are much easier. Today they scored and they had to set up their offense.”

Bangor struggled from beyond the 3-point arc, making one of 13 attempts.

That helped the Vikings overcome getting just two points (on two fourth-quarter free throws) from leading scorer Colton Carson, who had the unenviable assignment of guarding (and being guarded by) former teammate Matt Fleming.

Fleming, who transferred from Oxford Hills to Bangor after his sophomore year and has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball for Army, finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and three steals, while Damien Vance added 16 points and six rebounds for the Rams (6-1).

“Colton and Pat Paine and Will did a good job on Matthew,” Graffam said. “He’s going to get his points, but they did a really nice job on him.”

“We scrapped it out and other guys stepped up and really played a big part,” Strong said.

Paine gave the Vikings a lift, replacing Carson after the latter went to the bench with his second foul late in the first quarter.

After Strong scored to give the Vikings the lead at the start of the second quarter — a lead they did not relinquish — Paine converted a three-point play, then poked away an entry pass to Fleming into the hands of Strong. That started a fast break the other way that ended with Strong setting up a Janek Luksza layup to cap a 7-0 Viking run for a 17-10 lead.

Strong set up Herrick for a layup and a jump hook as the margin inflated to 23-14. Fleming was able to cut it to 25-19 with a three-point play just before halftime.

Oxford Hills enjoyed a 10-4 advantage on the offensive boards thanks in large part to Dietrich, a 6-foot-2 senior forward who grabbed five offensive rebounds. His back-to-back putbacks helped put the Vikings back up by nine, 33-24, late in the third quarter.

“Will has been playing great. Tonight he was fantastic again,” Graffam said.

“We’re starting figure out what works for us and we’re starting to click on offense,” Dietrich said. “You have Matt guarding Colton tonight, and he’s a great defender, and we still put up, what, 53? Matt was taking Colton out of the game pretty much, so I knew I needed to have a big game. I finished some shots tonight. I don’t always do that.”

The Vikings led by 10 midway through the fourth before Vance led one last desperate charge by the Rams, scoring six points in a 10-2 run that pulled them within 45-43 before he fouled out with 53.4 seconds left.

Oxford Hills, which made 22-of-37 free throws (compared 8-for-12 shooting for Bangor), converted eight of nine from the charity stripe inside the final minute to give a big boost to its chances of hosting an AA North tournament quarterfinal.

Bangor’s Damien Vance tries to disrupt Oxford Hills’ Spencer Strong on Tuesday in Paris. (Brewster Burns photo)

Oxford Hills’ Spencer Stong dribbles through Bangor’s Parker Noyes, left, and Damien Vance on Tuesday in Paris. (Brewster Burns photo)


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