AUBURN — St. Dom’s was just itching to break this Western Maine Conference boys basketball game wide open since tipoff Tuesday night.

The Saints’ defense was relentless and their fast break was also thriving as St. Dom’s raced to a 51-40 victory over Traip Academy.

By halftime, St. Dom’s (3-1) put up a 32-20 lead on the scoreboard against the Rangers (2-3), who stepped it up in the second half while the Saints’ offense suddenly went stale in the third quarter.

“The third quarter for whatever reason this year has been really tough for us,” St. Dom’s coach Josh LaPrell said. “We don’t score in the third quarter for some reason, but we did some nice things defensively.

“We worked on a couple of things over the (holiday) break to keep them on their toes. I was really proud of their effort. We could change between three or four things on the fly and keep (Traip) guessing and keep them on their toes. So, I think that was key for us to get some easier baskets in both halves. It was good to get this win tonight.”

The Saints struggled with their shooting in the third quarter, but small forward Michael Stowe (10 points) and guard Gabe Carey (game-high 17 points, three 3-pointers) kept the Saints in the game with several key baskets.

“I just wanted to beat Traip,” Stowe said. “I don’t think in my high school career we never beat them. St. Dom’s basketball hasn’t been great in the past, but I think this year is our year and we really want to send a message to other teams to show that we can compete.”

Stowe acknowledged the third quarter appears to be less productive for his Saints.

“I think we could have done better closing out, but I think overall we played really well as a team,” he said. “The third quarter seems to be our worst quarter as a team. We did a little bit better today, but there are still improvements to be made.”

But the Saints’ breakneck defense stayed right on top of the Rangers and their fast break was still in working order in the second half.

“We play much better fast than we do when things slow down,” LaPrell said. “… We are very athletic, and we can get out and run and push and we do really well with transition.”

LaPrell gave a nod to Traip coach Ed Szczepanik and added that the Rangers were missing a couple of key players to COVID-19. David Durling led the Rangers with 14 points.

“We are not playing up to our ability at all right now, and I know it is a weird season and a weird year and we are trying to work our way through it.” Szczepanik said. “But all the credit to the Saints. (LaPrell has) got his guys totally prepared …

“It took us about half of the game before we decided we were really going to play. They were OK, but you can’t take a half of a game to get going.”

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