PORTLAND, MAINE -- 03/01/18 -- Hampden Academy guard Bryce Lausier brings the ball up the court in the second half of the Maine Class A Boys Basketball Championship game in Portland on Thursday night. Troy R. Bennett | BDN Credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

HAMPDEN, Maine — As the starters on the Hampden Academy boys basketball team watched the final seconds of Friday night’s encounter with visiting Lawrence of Fairfield from the bench, victory had been secured but one important phase of the game had yet to be achieved.

That involved defense, in particular the Broncos’ goal of holding opponents to 40 points or less.

If there was an anxious moment it didn’t show among either the starters or the reserves who finished the game as the defending Class A North champions improved their record to 3-0 by winning that game within the game en route to a 61-40 victory.

“We really take pride in our defense because defense does win games,” said Hampden senior guard Kory Winch, who contributed a game-high 16 points along with five rebounds and four assists.

“Any time we let up more than 40 to any team, whether we win or not, we kind of feel like we failed as a team, so whether our offense is there or not we take a lot of pride in keeping teams under 40.”

Hampden’s defense needed to be stout against a winless but scrappy Lawrence team that used hustle to hang within 21-18 at intermission despite 16 first-half turnovers.

Credit the closeness of the contest at that point to the Bulldogs’ own defense as well as their work on the offensive boards against the taller Broncos.

“You’d think with our size we’d be able to outrebound them but they showed some grit tonight,” said Hampden coach Russ Bartlett. “Defensively they took us out of our rhythm first half; we were trying to play too quickly.”

Hampden regrouped at the break and, after shooting just 32 percent (9 of 28) from the field during the opening two periods, made a robust 59 percent (13 of 22) of its field-goal attempts during the second half.

“Coach came into the locker room at halftime and said we needed to work the ball around more and that all starts with me,” said HA junior guard Bryce Lausier. “We did that in the second half and got better looks and better shots.”

Lawrence (0-3) was still within 38-31 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter before Hampden finally broke the game open, beginning with an off-balance shot from the lane by senior center Marc Hutchings as he was being fouled.

Hutchings added the free throw, the first in a run of six makes in eight tries, before Winch capped off a string of 11 unanswered points by the Broncos with a 3-pointer from the key off a Mikey Raye assist to make it 49-31 with 4:08 to play.

Winch was one of five Broncos to score at least eight points. Lausier added 11 points and five rebounds while sophomore guard Andy Raye (10 points) and Hutchings and Mikey Raye (eight points each) also contributed to the balanced attack.

Hampden also got a boost from backup center Kent Oliver, who had four points, two steals and a block while seeing extended first-half minutes after Hutchings drew his second foul. Oliver finished the night with six points.

“Marc has gotten into foul trouble three games in a row and Kent has been steady in all three games,” said Bartlett. “He did a great job first half for us and Marc didn’t hang his head about his first half, he came out in the second half focused and I thought gave us a lot of energy on both ends of the floor.”

Senior forward Adam Duprey led Lawrence with 10 points while senior guard Kobe Nadeau added nine.

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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...