Brady Saunders, the leader of the Brewer Witches boys basketball team, took over when it mattered on Tuesday night against Hampden Academy at Brewer High School.
Saunders sparked a big second-quarter run to help the Witches create a sizable gap from the Broncos and Brewer was able to keep up the intensity en route to a 75-50 victory.
Early on in the second quarter, Brewer (3-0) led 17-12 after an early Hampden (2-2) free throw. Saunders then hit a floater in the lane and drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to increase the Witches’ lead to 25-12 with 6:30 left in the first half.
Saunders was the focus on defense for Hampden, but the senior wing was able to still score 20 points to lead all scorers.
“His ability to step up this year and be the leader is incredible,” Brewer coach Ben Goodwin said. “He’s a tough guard for anyone. But he’s earned it, he’s worked hard to get to this point and is well-deserving.”
Saunders also helped Brewer move the ball around the court well all night, with three teammates — Brock Flagg (15 points), Cameron Hughes (14) and Ryder Goodwin (13) — all finishing in double figures.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off me when we have Brock, Ryder, they’re always going to get a tough defender so that takes a lot of heat off me,” Saunders said. “When they’re knocking down their shots we can beat anybody, I believe.”
Hampden came alive at the end of the second quarter with Andrew Day and Zach McLaughlin hitting threes to end the half. Still, the Broncos trailed 30-20.
The Broncos lost to Portland 56-47 last night in Portland and were a step slower at times on Tuesday night. Still, McLaughlin led the Broncos with 15 points. The matchup between McLaughlin and Saunders, two of Maine’s best scorers, was a focus for both teams on defense.
“It was a good matchup,” Hampden coach Russ Bartlett said. “It’s the first year we’ve asked Zach to guard great players and also score on offense. He’s becoming a lot more consistent on defense and his offense is obviously really special.”
“Zach McLaughlin is obviously one of the best players in the state and to challenge myself every night, it’s only going to make myself and the team better,” Saunders added.
In the third quarter, Flagg scored nine points, Goodwin six and Saunders dropped in five more to help Brewer to a 55-35 lead.
“Brady Saunders is, what I think, a top-five player in the state, then we have Brock, Ryder, everybody,” Ben Goodwin said. “The big thing we’ve built on in the last eight or nine years is playing as a team. One guy can have 20 one night and five the next night while someone else has 20. We take a lot of pride in that and playing like a team.”
Hampden hosts Oxford Hills on Thursday next, while Brewer will travel to Cony on Thursday.