EASTON, Maine — After going through some early season struggles, Fort Fairfield is proving it belongs among the elite in the Class C North division.
The Tigers raced to a 27-0 lead after 10 minutes in Tuesday’s 66-35 home victory over Washburn, and they put together a similar blitz at the beginning of the game Wednesday, scoring 22 of the game’s first 24 points en route to a 78-61 victory over Easton.
“They were on another level tonight,” said Easton coach Manny Martinez. “They played great defense, were hitting everything in that first quarter and we just didn’t have a chance.”
Fort Fairfield, which beat Easton by just four points in the Dec. 13 season opener, is 10-1 and has won eight in a row after its only loss, which came against undefeated Southern Aroostook on Dec. 19. The Tigers are just percentage points behind 11-0 George Stevens Academy for the No. 1 position in the division standings.
Fort Fairfield scored 20 unanswered points during a 3:40 stretch early in the first quarter, using its full-court man-to-man defense to force seven first-quarter turnovers. A Carter Bruce 3-pointer ignited the rally, and he also contributed a conventional 3-point play in the run.
Chris Giberson and Isaac Cyr contributed five points each, and Landen Kinney and Jared Harvey each had layups.
“At the beginning of the season, we really didn’t know how to get up and down the floor and play intense,” Cyr said. “Coach kept preaching it and preaching it that if we have good defense, the offense will come, and that showed tonight.”
When Easton did break the press, every shot it attempted was contested by the aggressive Tiger defenders. The Bears went almost six minutes without a field goal in the first period and had only two buckets in the first seven minutes of the second. They didn’t hit a 3-pointer and also struggled from the foul line, going 6 for 16 before intermission, as Fort Fairfield led 42-20 at the break.
The Bears didn’t cut the deficit to below 15 the rest of the way.
Kinney came off the bench to join Cyr in leading Fort Fairfield in scoring with 18 points each. Kinney also grabbed a dozen rebounds, many on the offensive end thanks to his quickness and leaping ability.
“He has a lot of energy, but sometimes he doesn’t know when to slow it down,” Cyr said, “but tonight he actually played really well.”
All four of the other Fort Fairfield starters had at least eight points, with Giberson tallying 13, Bruce 11, Harvey 10 and Ryan Player eight.
“We’ve had a lot of guys stepping up lately and hit some big shots for us,” said Fort Fairfield coach Logan McLaughlin. “They are all starting to come into their own, hitting from the outside and finishing around the rim.”
Jake Flewelling paced Easton (7-6 and in fourth place in Class D) with 22 points, with 17 of them coming in the second half. Jordan Doody contributed 13 and Hunter Brown 10 in the loss.