BANGOR — The Caribou boys basketball team is used to life on the road, but the early stages of the 2010-11 season have represented a true challenge for the Vikings.

Not only was its latest game against John Bapst at the Bangor Auditorium the fifth road game in six starts for the Aroostook County contingent, it was the second lengthy journey in three days.

Yet coach Chris Casavant’s club hasn’t been the worse for its travel wear, taking control in the second quarter against John Bapst on Thursday en route to a 55-43 victory to improve its record to 5-1.

“We really don’t worry about it,” said Caribou senior forward Stephen St. Peter of the travel. “We just go out and play basketball. Any win on the road is a good win, and we’re doing well so far.”

Making the Vikings’ latest victory even more gratifying was that it was the team’s response to its lone defeat, an overtime loss at undefeated Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor on Tuesday.

“This is a huge win for us for being on the road, and also for being a bounce-back win,” said Casavant. “We very easily could have come in with a real hangover, because we played well for 31 minutes (at MDI) and with five seconds left we give up a free throw to tie it, and we had already fouled out two kids so we pretty much knew that if we didn’t win in regulation it was going to be a struggle to win in overtime.

“For us to come out and play as well as we did today, especially early, was important for us.”

Senior guard Matt Till led Caribou with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while senior forward St. Peter scored 17 points and junior point guard Chad Caverhill added 10 points, including a 6-of-6 effort from the free-throw line in the game’s final two minutes.

Till and St. Peter combined to shoot 64 percent (18 of 28) from the field, with many of those shots coming from the 12- to 15-foot range.

“If we don’t make those shots we have a hard time winning games,” said Till. “But we shut them down on defense today and that was the big thing.”

John Bapst (3-4) was within 13-11 after the opening quarter, but Caribou’s man-to-man defense held the Crusaders scoreless for the first 7 minutes, 5 seconds of the second period.

“We just knew we had to come out and play good defense because obviously they’re a well-coached team and they play well in their gym,” said Caverhill.

Caribou built its lead to 25-11 by scoring 12 unanswered points during that span, including eight by St. Peter on two jumpers and two layups after he grabbed offensive rebounds.

The Vikings’ advantage was 27-15 at intermission and grew to a game-high 15 points when St. Peter converted on a three-point play 33 seconds into the third quarter.

Lucas Philippon sparked a John Bapst comeback with three straight assists later in the period, the third a feed to Chris Hammond for a low-post jumper that pulled the Crusaders within 31-24.

But Caribou pushed its lead back to double digits (39-28) by the end of the quarter, and John Bapst got no closer than seven points over the game’s final eight minutes.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...