PARIS — Cheverus employed a matchup zone to wall-off the paint and throw a wrench into Oxford Hills’ offense, specifically senior center Colton Carson, during Wednesday night’s Class AA North boys’ basketball game.

Despite the lynch-pin of their offense facing constant double- and, at times, triple-teams in the paint, Carson and the Vikings showed there is more than one way to beat a zone, using a formula that included some strong defense of their own to beat the Stags 54-49.

Carson put the exclamation point on a dominant performance with a breakaway dunk in the final minute to finish with 26 points along with 20 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

“They collapsed the middle because we were trying to attack different weaknesses at different spots in the zone,” Carson said. “I think our team did a great job of swinging the ball and really moving it to find the best open shots.”

Spencer Strong scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half to help the Vikings (8-6) gradually open up a little breathing room after a nip-and-tuck first half.

Nick Galli led Cheverus (7-7) with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Matt Duchaine added 11 points.

Carson and the Vikings didn’t exactly shoot the lights out (21-for-56), but they gave themselves plenty of second chances by crashing the offensive boards. Carson had 11 of their 17 offensive rebounds.

“They knew that to beat us you pack it in and make us shoot from the outside,” said Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam, who was coaching in his 700th MPA-sanctioned game. “Colton took that game over in the second half. He was tremendous.”

“We knew that he was going to try to do some damage six, seven feet from the basket,” Cheverus coach Ryan Soucie said. “We knew that he was a strong rebounder and gets a lot of his points off offensive rebounds. I think he got some offensive rebounds, but he missed some shots. But he did most of his damage just kind of roaming free in the paint. We’ve got to get better at being a little tougher down there blocking cuts (and) communicating. We really didn’t do a great job of that tonight.”

Cheverus rallied from an early 7-2 deficit to tie it at 9-9 at the end of the first quarter. The Stags went on to match their biggest lead of the game on a Dylan Morrison jump shot that made it 18-15 before a putback by Carson sent the teams into halftime with the Stags leading by one.

The Vikings attempted 30 shots to Cheverus’ 19 in the first half thanks to their work on the offensive glass and 12 turnovers by the Stags.

“They play tough, physical, halfcourt man-to-man defense and I think that bothered our guys to some extent,” Soucie said. “I don’t think we were ever able to turn the corner and get downhill into the paint like we want. They were holding us up on our cuts. And we missed some shots. I don’t know what we shot from 3(-point range) but it wasn’t very good, and that’s a huge part of our game.”

The Stags finished a respectable 7-for-20 (35 percent) from beyond the arc but were just 1-for-8 through the first three quarters.

“I feel like defense is a mental thing, and our team always comes in with mental toughness,” Carson said. “We want to defend. Our weakness has been our offense and scoring the basketball, but we’re going to be in every game because of our defense. We’ve got to score the basketball to put those games away.”

Leading 34-28 after three quarters, the Vikings put the Stags away, even though the Stags started heating up from the outside.

Akera Oryem made the first of Cheverus’ six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to cut the Vikings’ lead to 34-31, but that was as close as the Stags would get. Back-to-back hoops by Strong and a layup by Janek Luksza off a nice pass by Carson made it 40-31.

Cheverus managed to pull back within four when Patrick Foster’s traditional three-point play made it 44-40 with 3:15 remaining, but Carson answered with back-to-back hoops and assisted on another Luksza hoop to push the margin out of reach at 50-40.

“We’ve had games where we haven’t been able to take care of business down the stretch. Today we did. The last three minutes was really good, except for the foul shooting,” Graffam said. “Luckily, defensively, we continued to do the things that we could do.”

“I can’t say enough about how well Will Dieterich and Janek Luksza played defensively,” Graffam added. “We held them to 49 (points). That’s what we have to do.”


Comments are not available on this story.