POLAND — Whether it’s playing in Class A for the first time or injuries and graduation forcing them to play without a number of key contributors who led them to the Class B South semifinals each of the past two years. Gray-New Gloucester boys basketball team has had to make a lot of adjustments already this season.

The Patriots had a new and unusual adjustment to make for Friday night’s Western Maine Conference clash with rival Poland — a malfunctioning fire alarm that cleared the gym in the first quarter and delayed the game for 20 minutes. But Gray-New Gloucester showed the poise of a team that has had to deal with its share of adversity, not only shaking off the false alarm but fending off several charges by the Knights to secure a 68-56 win.

Nicholas Kariotis of Gray-New Gloucester grabs a long pass while being guarded by Isaiah Hill of Poland Regional High School on Friday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I would say it just shows how close we are, and how whenever they make a mistake we can always come back with more effort,” senior forward Nick Kariotis said. “When someone scores against us, it just gives us more momentum to keep going and keep pushing.”

Kariotis led four Patriot scorers in double figures with 15 points. Wyatt Kenney and Nick Pelletier added 12 apiece, and Jay Hawkes chipped in with 10.

“We have a lot of talent that’s put a lot of work in this summer,” said Pelletier, a senior guard who shined all-around with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. “Everyone’s going to be putting up their numbers.”

Joe Ringuette led all scorers with 22 points and also had eight rebounds for the Knights (0-5). Evan Kelly added 14 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:54 left in the game.

Gray-New Gloucester (2-3) led 10-6 when the fire alarm went off with 1:02 left in the first quarter. Everyone was briefly evacuated from the building, but the quick respite out in the cold did little to cool the Patriots off as they started the second quarter with a 7-0 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game at 18-8.

After missing three of their first four 3-point attempts, the Patriots made three of their first five in the second quarter to extend the margin as high as 13, and they led by 12 at the half.

“We would have a couple of mental lapses, two or three possessions in a row,” Poland coach Tyler Tracy said. “We wouldn’t be in the right spot or dribble into two guys and there would be a bad turnover and it would be two (points) the other way. You also have to give credit to some of their guys, too, because there was a couple of times where they went a handful of possessions without scoring, we’d make a little run, and then they’d hit a big 3.”

“For us,” he added, “it was just awful timing. For them, it was perfect timing because they would kind of get their legs back and they’d have a little bit more juice on the defensive end.”

With the Patriots playing without 6-foot-5 senior Matt Johnson (broken finger from preseason), the Knights pounded the ball inside to the 6-foot-3 Kelly for six straight points to start the second half to pull within 32-26.

Aubray Lincoln and Pelletier drilled 3-pointers to send the Patriots’ cushion back to 12 before the Knights went on the attack again and cut the deficit to 44-40 on an Isaiah Hill 3-pointer with 2:41 left in the third.

Gray-New Gloucester responded again to give itself some more breathing room, ending the quarter with a 6-0 run that was capped by Kariotis’ buzzer-beating layup off of a Pelletier steal.

“Hats off to (Poland) for making those runs,” Gray-New Gloucester coach Ryan Deschenes said, “but we did a nice job of regrouping and just executing our stuff. When we got downhill and shared the ball, we always got a good look. We just had to be consistent with that.”

Kelly picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench early in the fourth quarter, and Gray-NG’s Terrell Claxton scored the first five points of the period to give the Patriots their largest lead to that point, 55-40.

Joe Ringuette of Poland Regional High School drives to the basket while being guarded by Nicholas Kariotis of Gray-New Gloucester during the first period in Poland on Friday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“(Kelly’s fourth foul) was a game-changer, honestly,” Tracy said. “We come out in the second half and he scores six straight points, and then all of a sudden they’re collapsing on him. We started hitting some shots and a couple of other guys started scoring, and then he gets in foul trouble and all of that defensive energy is spread out now and things are a little bit harder for us. When he’s playing that well, things are a lot easier for us.”

Poland made one final advance behind a three-point play from Ringuette and a Hunter Gibson hoop that made it 55-48 with 5:16 remaining, but the Patriots turned them back again with 3-pointers from Pelletier and Kenney to pull away for the last time.

“Today was Wyatt Kenney’s first game back (from a foot injury),” Deschenes said. “It was nice to have Wyatt back. He’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but he gave us a big lift tonight.”


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