BREWER, Maine — Matt Fleming doesn’t need a lot of help generating offense for the Bangor High School boys basketball team.
But when his teammates started firing away and connecting from beyond the 3-point arc early in Wednesday night’s clash with rival Brewer, the stage was set for the junior forward to have a big evening.
The transfer from Oxford Hills of South Paris delivered, breaking through for a season-high 34 points as Bangor fought off the stubborn Witches 76-58.
“He’s had a lot of experience in a lot of different venues,” said Bangor coach Carl Parker. “He’s a tremendous leader and obviously a pretty talented player.
“We put him in a variety of spots, he doesn’t just stay on the block or on the perimeter. We move him around and he does a good job, and the kids do a good job of getting him the ball and having confidence in him, too.”
Fleming shot 13 of 21 from the field overall, 4 of 6 from 3-point land and 4 of 4 on free throws to go with 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. And when Brewer sought to rally from a 20-point intermission deficit, he was at his most accurate, making 7 of his 10 shots after the break en route to a 19-point second half.
“In the second half I was feeling it. I felt like if they scored I just wanted the ball in my hands because I was going to go right at them,” said Fleming, who is averaging 29.3 points per game amidst Class AA Bangor’s 2-1 start. “It seemed to work, we really didn’t lose much of the lead.”
Damien Vance added 15 points and Henry Westrich scored 13 for a Bangor team that connected on 11 3-pointers.
Senior Nate Laskey came off the bench to give Brewer some inspired play around the basket and finished with a team-high 16 points, while Brandon Glidden posted 15 points and Cameron Monroe scored 14 for the Class A Witches.
“We did a good job,” said Brewer coach Ben Goodwin. “In the first quarter I don’t think we competed like we can and got ourselves in a hole, but in the second half I think we showed that we can compete. Our kids play with a ton of heart and that’s all we can ask from them.”
Bangor, which entered the game averaging 72.5 points, quickly turned on the offensive jets, making six of 10 3-pointers in the opening quarter to build a 20-15 lead. Vance and Jason Smith each made two from downtown during the early going, and that success from the perimeter served to create more space for the Rams to work in offensively during the final three quarters.
“Everyone was shooting well in that first quarter so it really spread the court out and gave me the opportunity to let the game come to me,” said Fleming. “It set us all up for the rest of the game.”
Fleming scored 12 points in the second quarter and Noah Missbrenner added two 3-pointers as Bangor’s lead swelled 42-22 at the break.
Then Brewer resolved to work the ball inside, and the Witches got big production from Laskey, who scored 10 of his 14 second-half points in the third quarter to help his team get as close as 52-44 on a drive by Glidden late in the period.
But Westrich made a layup and fed Fleming for a jumper to restore Bangor to a 56-44 advantage by the end of the quarter, and Fleming and Vance combined for 16 points over the final eight minutes as the Rams maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way.
“Offensively we played pretty well,” said Parker. “Defensively we’re a work in progress but I like the kids’ effort, I like the kids’ approach to the game, I like their feeling for each other, and those are all going to be traits that as the season goes on will benefit us.”