WINTHROP — They’re basketball coaches. But on Friday, Todd MacArthur and T.J. Maines stole a move from the football field and called an audible.

MacArthur’s Winthrop team was supposed to play Boothbay on Thursday, but the game was postponed. Maines’s Cony squad was supposed to play Erskine on Friday, but that game was called off as well.

So, like a pair of teenagers with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, the Rams and Ramblers texted each other to see if they felt like playing a game.

“We threw it together last second, and both ADs (Winthrop’s Joel Stoneton and Cony’s Jon Millett) were great about it,” Maines said. “It just worked out.”

What worked out was a scrimmage between the two teams in advance of their Tuesday regular season matchup, with Cony beating Winthrop 58-51. It had the look of a hastily assembled exhibition, with both teams in their practice uniforms, because that’s all it was supposed to be.

Call it an exercise in resourcefulness. As MacArthur pointed out, in the era of COVID-19, that’s going to be an important trait.

“You’re going to see a lot more of that this year, in terms of county colors and with all the COVID or close contact situations,” MacArthur said. “You might have a game get canceled, and some one else does, and you call them up and say ‘Hey, you want to play?’ It’s almost like a pickup game. ‘We’ve got next.’

“In terms of scheduling, you’re going to have to be really flexible. … Things can change on a dime.”

In addition to the informal, impromptu atmosphere, the scrimmage featured an intriguing matchup between two of the area’s strongest programs. The Ramblers are the two-time defending Class C champions, while the Rams last year finished two points shy of a trip to the Class A title game.

“That’s something that we’ve always wanted to do here in the last five years,” MacArthur said. “Go and play bigger schools, the Conys, the Maranacooks, the Gardiners. The area schools that we play in the summertime, now we get an opportunity to play them and see how we match up.”

It’s a matchup that, given the class difference between Class A Cony and Class C Winthrop, wouldn’t happen in normal years.

Seated beneath The Bus Stop sign in what would usually be student section, volunteer parent Melissa Perkins records a scrimmage between the Cony and Winthrop boys basketball teams during a scrimmage Friday afternoon in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s really cool, because we know the kids, we know the coaches,” MacArthur said. “Personally, I know a lot of these coaches and I’m close with them, so it’s fun to coach against new faces, and I think the kids probably feel the same way about some of the kids that they recognize. It’s something positive out of a negative situation.”

It was also a clash of opposing styles. Cony plays fast, aggressive and up-tempo. Winthrop prefers precision, where no one is left uncovered and the ball is constantly moving, in search of the best shot.

“Todd’s a terrific coach. They have a great program, they have good players and they play the right way,” Maines said. “It’s good for us to play against that, because it grinds on you. It’s not comfortable for us, and the way we play is not comfortable for them. So it’s a really, really good thing for both of us.”

“The thing that gives us a challenge is the pace of play that they play and the amount of pressure they bring,” MacArthur said. “We take great pride in our mental toughness and execution on the floor, so it’s an opportunity to apply those traits that we like.”

The result was a game that was close for all 32 minutes. Cony took the lead in the first quarter and opened up a 10-point lead in the second quarter, but Winthrop came back to tie the score at 36 in the third.

The Rams’ trademark blend of shooting and in-your-face defense paid off down the stretch, however, as Cony took a 48-43 lead by the end of the third and didn’t look back. Kyle Douin had 11 points and Brady Hopkins had 10 for the Rams.

“They’re really quick, and they’ve definitely got a lot of skill. … They can shoot the ball well, they run the ball well,” said Winthrop’s Noah Grube, who led the Ramblers with 18 points. “It’s always good to play up competition, you love to play bigger schools, especially us. We feel like we can compete with anyone in the state, this program, because we work hard and we play defense. … It’s good to play a bigger school and test ourselves.”

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