In this January 2020 photo, Andrew Szwez of Bangor dribbles up the court in a game at Hampden Academy. (Natalie Williams | BDN)

Two regular-season victories over Hampden Academy by a combined eight points weren’t satisfying enough for the Bangor boys basketball team.

So the Rams left nothing to chance when they met for the third time in Thursday night’s Big East Classes AA-A pod semifinal.

Coach Brad Libby’s club shot 61 percent from the field during the first half and rolled to an 81-49 homecourt victory at Red Barry Gymnasium.

“We wanted to make a statement tonight because we felt like the last two times we played them it was a little closer than it should have been,” Bangor senior forward Andrew Szwez said. “We just wanted to show who was the number one seed and why we are the number one seed.”

The top-seeded Rams (10-1) will host a third meeting of the season next Tuesday against No. 2 Brewer (11-2) in the pod championship game. The Witches, who lost twice to Bangor during the regular season, advanced with a 58-37 victory over No. 3 Nokomis of Newport.

No. 4 Hampden ends its season at 7-7.

Bangor did face some early adversity, as starters Cabryn Streams and Landon Clark each drew his second foul during the game’s first four minutes and spent the rest of the half on the bench.

But the remaining Rams used stifling man-to-man defense to silence Hampden early in the contest. They forced 14 turnovers and held the Broncos to 26 percent (5-of-19) shooting in the first half.

“Our defense starts our offense and whenever we play really good defense we get a lot of energy and the energy propels us to play well on offense,” Bangor junior guard Joey Morrison said.

Bangor’s reserves also came up big, scoring 19 of their 24 first-half points during the second quarter to help the Rams outscore Hampden 28-6 and build a 45-16 lead at intermission.

Senior forward Eli Bradford contributed nine points to that early bench blitz while junior forward Colton Emerson and sophomore guard Keegan Cyr added six points each as Bangor made 19 of its 31 field-goal tries during the opening half.

“At the beginning of the season some of the guys coming off the bench were trying to find their roles,” Szwez said, “but as the season has progressed they’ve found what they needed to do for the team and have flourished in their roles. It’s been really awesome.”

Morrison followed up his 16-point performance in Bangor’s 63-53 overtime win at Brewer to close out the regular season with a 15-point night against Hampden.

The junior guard shot 6-for-6 from the floor and now has made 11 of 12 field-goal attempts over the last two games.

“My teammates just find me whenever I’m open, and I know what’s a good shot or a bad shot and I usually don’t take the bad shots because I like to make the extra pass,” said Morrison, who also contributed three assists and five rebounds.

Szwez, the Rams’ Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist, posted 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists while Bradford finished with 11 points and junior forward Max Clark added nine.

Nine different Bangor players scored at least six points.

Freshman guard Zach McLaughlin paced Hampden with 14 points while sophomore guard Brandon Butterfield, junior forward T.J. Henaghan and sophomore forward Landon Gabric scored eight points apiece.

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...