Brewer head coach Ben Goodwin on the sideline during the season opener against Skowhegan at Brewer High School in early December 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The new year begins with a blockbuster on the local schoolboy basketball scene Tuesday evening as Bangor hosts Brewer in a battle of teams at or near the top of their respective classes.

Brewer is off to a 6-0 start to lead Class A North, with victories over the next three highest seeds in Nokomis of Newport, Skowhegan and Cony of Augusta — teams with a combined 14-4 record — highlighting the early run.

Coach Ben Goodwin’s club has allowed just 52.3 points per game and outscored its opponents by 21.5 points per outing.

The Witches’ offense has exploded in recent games, averaging 85.7 points during its victories over Hampden Academy (87-50), Cony of Augusta (90-60) and Mt. Blue of Farmington (80-61).

Brewer’s balanced scoring attack has senior guard Aaron Newcomb and juniors Brock Flagg, Ryan Goodwin and Brady Saunders all averaging in double figures while senior guard Colby Smith adds nearly seven points per outing and leads the team in assists and steals.

“We’re playing well as a team and I think it shows in our stat line,” Goodwin said. “Every night it could be a different high scorer for us. We’re really coming together as a team, our practices are still real solid, and we hope to continue to keep improving and go game to game.”

Bangor entered 2022 with a 5-2 record to rank second in Class AA North behind only 2020 state champion Edward Little of Auburn, a team the Rams defeated on the road 51-46 on Dec. 21.

“Our battles with Edward Little have been epic,” Bangor coach Brad Libby recalled. “I talked with [Edward Little coach] Mike Adams before the game about how it’s worth the price of admission because of how hard the two teams play and the passion and effort that goes into it. I’m just really proud of how the kids bought into the game plan and trusted what we were trying to do.”

That victory featured a Bangor defense that, like Brewer, has been stingy so far this season, yielding just 50.3 points per game.

“We pride ourselves in keeping teams under 50,” Bangor senior forward Max Clark said after the Rams’ 60-50 win at Hampden Academy last Tuesday. “We have a bunch of hard workers and everyone on the bench has a lot of energy. The biggest thing is that we stick together really well and work really hard.”

Bangor’s offense is led by three double-digit scorers in 6-foot-6 sophomore Landon Clark, one of the state’s emerging big men, along with senior forward Max Clark and senior guard Keegan Cyr.

Bangor will be looking to bounce back from a 57-49 loss at Windham last Thursday. Windham entered that contest with a 1-4 record, but the losses were to undefeated South Portland, once-beaten Edward Little and Oxford Hills of South Paris and twice-defeated Lewiston — teams with a combined 18-4 record.

Brewer avenged two regular-season losses to Bangor by defeating the Rams 68-62 to win the Big East Conference Classes AA-A pod championship during last winter’s abbreviated and regionalized season.

While they’ll be competing in different classes again under this year’s traditional tournament format, the opportunity for Bangor and Brewer to resume their cross-river rivalry — they’ll also end the regular season against each other on Feb. 10 in Brewer — always brings with it great anticipation.

“It’s nice having this rivalry that goes back years and years,” Goodwin said. “The kids all know each other nowadays, but they still want to go out and win this one.”

Game time is 6:30 p.m. at Red Barry Gymnasium. The gym doors will be open beginning at 5:30 p.m., according to Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine, with admittance to the contest for the general public limited to 500.

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...