GARDINER — It was just another feather in the Mt. Blue Cougars’ caps in a turn-around season where prosperity has now settled in and a trip to the postseason has become a reality.

Mt. Blue’s Randy Barker (15) goes up for shot as Gardiner’s as Case Gallagher (11) looks on during a basketball game in Gardiner on Monday. (Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi)

But to keep all this positive karma going, Mt. Blue coach Travis Magnusson quickly figured out that a blistering transition game was the best approach to subduing relentless and scrappy Gardiner (2-12) on Monday night.

The Cougars (9-3) used some perimeter shooting, worked their way inside the paint and demonstrated some dazzling passing, including a behind-the head move by James Anderson to make the crowd sit up and take notice, to stave off the Tigers with a 68-50 victory in a boys’ basketball game.

“I was pretty happy,” Magnusson said. “I thought offensively we played one of the best games we had in the last two or three weeks, which was good coming off the Leavitt game.

“We didn’t play great offensively. Defensively, we were good. At times, I don’t know if we brought it every possession, but all in all, we played a really good game tonight — and Gardiner is a good basketball team. We shot the ball here and we did a good job with that and how we played.”

Gardiner never let up, but the Cougars were also pushing it up the court and eventually put more distance between themselves and the Tigers with a 34-22 halftime lead.

Mt. Blue James Anderson (11) and Randy Barker (15) try to head off Gardiner’s Logan Carleton (24) during a basketball game in Gardiner on Monday. (Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi)

Anderson’s fast moves and solid rebounding all added up to a game-high, 24-point effort. Garrett Reynolds was right behind Anderson with 22 points.

And things only got better for the Cougars when they opened up a 53-35 lead at the end of three quarters.

“We got up and down and that was the key,” Magnusson said. “We started the second half and I think we were on a 9-0 run. We started with good defense and we really tried to get it to the paint…and we did that and we went from 12 to 22 (points) pretty quickly.

“I thought everybody played well. I thought Caleb Talbot quietly did a lot of things. He took a couple of charges. He rebounded well. Created outlet passes. James and Garrett scored the ball pretty well tonight. Both of them were really tough.”

But there were no signs of surrender by the Tigers, who threw a scare into the Cougars when Gardiner climbed to within nine points of Mt. Blue midway through the fourth quarter.

The Tigers’ persistence forced the Cougars to keep their starters in for most of the game.

Mt. Blue’s Jacob Farhman (12) looks up as the ball gets away from him as Gardiner’s Hunter Lord (20) defends during a basketball game in Gardiner on Monday. (Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi)

“I am proud of the way our guys competed and fought,” Gardiner coach Aaron Toman said. “Mt. Blue is a very good basketball team and they really like to pressure you.

“We competed till the end…but in the end, we just couldn’t contend. Again, I like they way we fought, and there were a couple of times where the lead was growing like 20 points…and we were able to withstand that and bring it down to a 15 point game or 10. They built a lead back up, but we were able to crawl our way back into it.”

Logan Carleton led Gardiner’s offense with 13 points. Casey Gallagher and Luke Stevens each contributed 11 points to the Tigers’ cause.