A look at the Class AA North boys basketball standings wouldn’t have suggested the sort of game played at The Stable on Tuesday night, with visiting Bangor on top of the rankings while Hampden Academy was still seeking its first victory of the season.

But there’s also a fierce basketball rivalry between the neighboring schools, so perhaps the hard-fought battle that led to Bangor’s 60-50 victory shouldn’t have come as a surprise after all.

The 5-1 Rams withstood an inspired first half by the 0-6 Broncos and limited their hosts to 15 second-half points while inducing 16 turnovers after intermission.

Still Hampden had multiple shots to tie or take the lead trailing 52-50 with less than three minutes left only to come up empty before Bangor scored the game’s final eight points to earn the deceptive double-digit victory.

“Just creating havoc and taking them out of what they were doing,” said Bangor coach Brad Libby of the keys to his team’s second-half defense. “Tonight we didn’t have a lot of shots falling for us but we’re going to have games like that and when that happens that’s when defense becomes that much more important.”

Sophomore forward Landon Clark led Bangor to its fourth consecutive victory with 25 points and 11 rebounds while older brother Max Clark, a senior forward, had eight points, six rebounds and five assists and senior guard Brayden Caron also scored eight points, seven after intermission.

Sophomore guard Zach McLaughlin led Hampden with 20 points, all during the first three quarters, while classmate J.J. Wolfington contributed 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“I thought for 30 out of the 32 minutes we were dead even,” Hampden coach Russ Bartlett said, “but they had more seniors that knew how to win the game at the end than we did and that showed the last 2½ minutes of the game.”

Hampden secured a 35-32 halftime lead despite Bangor committing just one turnover during the game’s first 16 minutes.

With McLaughlin scoring 14 points and Wolfington adding eight, the Broncos shot 52 percent (15 of 29) from the field during the opening two periods and outrebounded Bangor 18-15 to limit the Rams’ second chances.

But an uptick in Bangor’s defensive intensity was evident at the outset of the second half, as the Rams forced turnovers on Hampden’s first three possessions and later took the lead for good with eight unanswered points beginning with a follow-up shot by Ben Caron and followed by two Landon Clark baskets and a drive by Colton Emerson for a 51-43 advantage 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.

But Hampden wasn’t going away, as Landen Gabric scored from the lane and Brandon Butterfield made a 3-pointer from beyond the key to cut the gap to 51-48. Gabric then followed a Landon Clark free throw with a jumper from the low post off a Wolfington assist to make it a 52-50 game with 3:45 left.

Hampden had chances to draw even closer or take the lead but came up scoreless on a couple of subsequent possessions — but never scored again.

“Defense and communication were probably the biggest things,” Max Clark said.

“We came out a little lower than we wanted energy-wise but in the second half we made a big statement, talking on defense and working a lot harder. We rebounded a lot better and we set the mentality defensively that they weren’t going to be able to score easily.”

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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...