Brewer’s Brady Saunders passes to a teammate over Skowhegan’s Quintcey McCray during their season opener on Dec. 10, 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Brock Flagg was one member of the Brewer High School boys basketball team thoroughly unsurprised by the way his team finished its 75-70 victory over host Bangor in their highly anticipated midseason showdown at Red Barry Gymnasium on Tuesday night.

“With the amount of running we do in practice we ought to be able to have good second halves,” said Flagg, a junior forward who scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the undefeated Witches improved their record to 7-0 and maintained their hold on first place in Class A North.

Coach Ben Goodwin’s club used two big second-half scoring runs to build a double-digit lead, then made eight consecutive free throws during the game’s final 94 seconds to prevent a Bangor comeback.

“I think it was our physicality and our mentality,” said Brewer junior forward Ryder Goodwin, who contributed 18 points and 14 rebounds to the victory. “We went into the second half knowing we were going to wear them down and that’s what we did.”

Senior guard Aaron Newcomb added 15 points — including four 3-pointers — for Brewer while junior forward Brady Saunders scored 10 points and senior guard Colby Smith contributed eight points and a game-high nine assists.

The Witches also dominated at the free-throw line, making 18 of 21 attempts compared with just 3 of 7 for Bangor.

“We’re a hard matchup,” coach Goodwin said. “If we get our offense moving and do that dribble-drive and attack the paint, and if you do help off and our shooters are shooting we can knock down shots.

“But [Bangor] did a good job. They’re a good, physical team and they matched our physicality and many teams haven’t done that this year. I was impressed with those guys.”

While Brewer entered the contest averaging 85.7 points in its previous three games, Bangor hoped to keep the Witches near the 50.3 points per game it had yielded during its 5-2 start.

The Rams missed their first few shots, while Brewer scored the game’s first nine points and built its lead to 13-2 on an up-and-under move by Smith midway through the opening period.

But Bangor wasn’t going away, as senior forward Max Clark scored nine straight points and late 3-pointers by sophomore forward Landon Clark and Ben Caron rallied the Rams to a 19-19 tie by the end of the first quarter.

The game grew more defensive on both sides during the second period, with Max Clark adding six more points and Landon Clark driving through the lane for a layup that sent the rivals into intermission locked in a 32-32 stalemate.

A 3-pointer by senior guard Brayden Caron gave Bangor a 43-41 lead midway through the third quarter before Brewer ran off 11 unanswered points to take control.

Ryder Goodwin tied the game with a layup off an inbounding pass by Smith, then Smith fed Saunders for a 3-pointer to give the Witches a 46-43 lead.

Flagg made two free throws, then scored off another Smith assist before Goodwin made a fast-break layup to give Brewer a 52-43 cushion before Landon Clark countered with a driving basket to close out the period.

Landon Clark connected on a 3-pointer and another drive to pull Bangor within 52-50, but a 9-1 Brewer run that began with a drive by Smith and  included two inside baskets by Goodwin and a 3-pointer by Newcomb gave the Witches a 61-51 advantage with less than 4 minutes left.

“We knew we had to come out in the second half and finish our defensive stops,” coach Goodwin said. “We had to get some rebounds and we had to make them play some defense. We were settling for some threes and some quick shots, but we ran our offense a little better and made them play us at our speed and that worked out for us in the second half.”

Brewer clinched the victory as Saunders, Goodwin, Flagg and Newcomb each went 2-for-2 from the line down the stretch.

“When you play a great shooting team like that and they’re so disciplined on the offensive end of the floor, it’s tough when you’re hoping for one or two more of their shots to rim out when they shoot the ball so well,” Bangor coach Brad Libby said.

Landon Clark led Bangor with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Max Clark had 15 points and 10 boards. Ben Caron added four 3-pointers en route to 14 points and Colton Emerson finished with 11.

The teams will meet again in Brewer on Feb. 10 to conclude the regular season.

“That was two great basketball teams battling hard, you could see it in both of the teams’ faces that they gave it everything they had,” Libby said. “It’s going to be a fun one at the end of the year over at their place.”

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...