AUGUSTA — The Brewer boys’ basketball team may have snuck into the tournament on the final night of the regular season, but the Witches seem intent on sticking around for a while.

Opening the Class A North quarterfinals with the region’s first upset, No. 6 Brewer was a picture of offensive efficiency in a 71-60 win over No. 3 Mt. Blue on Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center.

Sophomore guard Dylan Huff scored 21 points to lead the Witches (10-9), who shot better than 60 percent from the field.

“It wasn’t anything we did,” said Mt. Blue coach Travis Magnusson, whose team also fell to Brewer in the regular-season finale. “We closed out really well, we got in great positions in our zone, and we played it aggressively. They just shot the ball.

“I’ve seen them four or five times, and that’s by far the best they’ve ever shot it. Credit to them, they played great.”

It was death by a thousand cuts for the Cougars (11-8), particularly in the first half. The Witches didn’t run them out of the gym with a hot start to open the game, nor did they count on a 22-0 run to open what had been a close contest.

Instead, Brewer simply maximized its possessions. The Witches made 23 of 38 attempts from the floor  (60.5 percent) and committed only three turnovers in the first three quarters.

“That’s something we’ve been harping on all week,” Brewer coach Ben Goodman said. “We know they play with a lot of energy and they get after it. We needed to take care of the ball and get our shots on the other side, and I think the kids did that tonight. They executed that game plan.”

“We started getting in a rhythm, and we just started knocking down shots,” Huff said. “When we find our offense and get people open and not be selfish with the ball, we’re good.”

Leading by three in the first minute of the second quarter, 16-13, Brewer then scored field goals on seven of its next eight possessions and points on eight of its next nine. While the Witches were hitting shots, the Cougars were trading single free throws at the other end of the floor.

The lead grew to 11, 35-24, with 3:46 left in the first half. Huff scored 15 of his 21 in the opening 16 minutes.

“At the beginning of the year, we took a lot of bad shots,” said junior Trevor Pearson, who finished with 15 points. “All season we’ve worked on getting our shot and not forcing things. We were so unselfish tonight, I don’t know if we forced any shots. It was always an extra pass, always looking to another guy.”

By contrast, Mt. Blue struggled mightily from the field — particularly in a third quarter that saw Brewer open an eight-point halftime lead into an advantage as large as 19 points at 50-31 with 1:25 remaining in the period. The Cougars missed all nine field goal attempts in the quarter, getting only free throws (four of them) to account for their scoring.

Garrett Reynolds led Mt. Blue with 18 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter before fouling out. James Anderson added 13 while Randy Barker had eight. They, too, fouled out as the Cougars tried in vain to slow the Witches’ shooting steamroller.

Mt. Blue closed to within seven, 67-60, in the final minute. But without the Cougars’ top three scorers in the game any longer, Brewer locked it down at the foul line.

“We fought back late, and we had a chance,” Magnusson said. “But a couple of our guys fouled out and another of our guards (Jacob Farnham) was sick. It wasn’t our best game, but we brought a lot of energy and did a lot of good things.”

The Witches made 11 of 15 free throws in the final period to seal the victory — and prove that they belong in this tournament despite waiting until the final day of the regular season to punch their ticket in.

“We’re playing our best basketball right now, and that’s all that matters,” Pearson said. “It doesn’t matter what happened at the beginning of the season. It matters how we’re playing right now.”

 

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