Filip Brkic didn’t play many minutes Monday evening as the second-ranked boys basketball teams in Class B North and Class C North squared off at Guiski Gymnasium in Dexter.
But a 66-second spurt by the Big East Conference’s leading scorer ignited a game-ending 27-2 run as Foxcroft Academy pulled away from the undermanned Tigers for a 53-22 victory.
Dexter, now 7-2 and trailing only undefeated Fort Kent in the Class C North Heal points, had hung within the visiting Ponies through the midpoint of the third quarter despite missing three starters, two due to COVID-19 and the third due to an ankle injury.
Junior guard Bryce Connor’s 1-for-2 trip to the free-throw line left coach Peter Murray’s club trailing only 26-20 with 4:24 left in the third quarter.
Then Brkic, a 6-foot-1 senior forward from Croatia who had played just 3 minutes, 47 seconds in the first half due to foul trouble, erupted with his first seven points of the game consecutively to extend Foxcroft’s lead to 33-20 and force a Dexter timeout with 3:18 left in the period.
After Dexter finally answered the Foxcroft run when Connor scored on a backdoor assist from sophomore forward Will Spratt, Brkic fed sophomore point guard Josh Cornett for a 3-pointer from the left corner and a fast-break layup after a Dexter turnover as the Class B Ponies scored the game’s final 20 points.
“We figured out some high-post, short-corner looks and it got us some better looks,” third-year Foxcroft head coach Toby Nelson said. “And Filip got going in the third quarter and hit a baseline runner, a 3-pointer and another jumper and that got us going.”
Foxcroft, which trails only undefeated Ellsworth in the Class B North rankings, improved its record to 7-1.
“We’re learning to win, and we’re learning to win on the road,” Nelson said.
This figured to be a midseason clash of titans between the regional rivals with a ton of Heal points at stake, and while the Ponies did win the Heal points in the first of their two meetings with the Tigers — they’ll close out the regular season against each other in Dover-Foxcroft on Feb. 8 — Dexter was nowhere near full strength and unable to generate consistent offense.
Foxcroft struggled during the first half against a rare 2-1-2 zone defense employed by the Tigers but eventually worked the ball through the heart of that defense to set up scoring opportunities on the opposite side of the court. The Ponies also capitalized on a 30-14 rebounding advantage.
Cornett and senior forward Gideon Topolski scored nine points apiece. Brkic, who entered the game averaging more than 20 points per contest, added eight points, all during the third quarter.
Topolski also grabbed five rebounds while pacing’s Foxcroft’s reserve unit. That group also included junior forward Adam Conner with six points and five rebounds and sophomore forward Jackson Smith with five assists and four rebounds.
“We got some great contributions off the bench when we faced foul trouble,” Nelson said.
Bryce Connor and senior guard Avery Gagnon, Dexter’s two available starters, scored nine points each.
“Hats off to Dexter, they worked hard tonight,” Nelson said. “Those kids on the bench that don’t see a lot of time, coach Peter Murray coached them up and they worked tremendously hard. Hats off to them for wanting to play and not wanting to try and postpone and do something different. They just wanted to play.”