Bella McLaughlin is defended by Brewer's Allie Flagg on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at Brewer High School. Credit: Adam Robinson / BDN

BREWER, Maine — Hampden Academy senior guard and captain Bella McLaughlin knows she will be counted upon to provide more offense than a year ago due to the loss of several scorers to graduation.

She lived up to expectations on Tuesday, pouring in a game-high 23 points to lead the Class AA Broncos to a 56-34 win over Class A Brewer at the Brewer High gym.

“I have to take a lot of shots so I’m going to take a lot and I’m going to miss a lot,” said the 5-foot-7 McLaughlin, who will play at Providence College next season. “But we have a different team this year so it’s important that I take a lot of shots and, hopefully, convert a lot of them.”

She went 9-for-19 from the floor including a 3-for-8 showing beyond the 3-point arc.

She also contributed six rebounds, five steals and two assists.

“She’s such a special player,” said Brewer first-year head coach Chad LaBree. “The way she moves, her footwork, her speed. She changes directions. Hampden definitely has a star right there.”

The Broncos, now 4-0, jumped to a 16-3 lead as the Witches turned the ball over nine times in the first period and several of those led to transition baskets for the Broncos. The Witches turned the ball over on their first five possessions.

McLaughlin, a third-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl selection a year ago, scored eight points in the eight minutes of the contest.

“Bella established in the first six minutes what we were going to do,” said Hampden Academy coach Nick Winchester.

“We’ve been working on trying to remedy the turnovers all season and, every game, they’re getting fewer and fewer,” said LaBree, who felt his young team had a case of nerves in the first half.

Brewer managed to pull within 11 points midway through the second period but the Broncos closed out the half with an 11-2 run that expanded the lead to 35-15 at the intermission and the lead was never seriously threatened in the second half.

McLaughlin poured in 16 first-half points and junior guard Lucy Wiles had 10.

Wiles finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Sophomore forward Caitlin Murphy produced seven points and four rebounds and junior forward Lauren Voteur, coming off an ankle injury, wound up with five points.

Winchester felt Murphy had an outstanding game.

Six-foot-two freshman Grace LaBree, Chad’s daughter, came off the bench and paced the 1-2 Witches with 12 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and an assist. Junior guard Mariah Roberts had six points, four rebounds and three assists along with a pair of steals.

Sophomore guard Allie Flagg also had six points as did senior center Jenna McQuarrie. McQuarrie also had five rebounds and two steals.

McLaughlin is one of the state’s premier point guards after coming off a season in which COVID sidelined her for several games and limited her effectiveness.

The Broncos’ floor general and leader was impactful in all aspects of the game and her quickness caused a lot of problems for the Witches while also creating open shots for her teammates.

Brewer’s LaBree has a bright future as she attacked the rim and displayed a nice touch around the basket.

The Witches won’t have senior guard Makayla Dore this season after she suffered a knee injury during the fall. She would have been a starter, according to Brewer coach LaBree.

The inexperienced Witches are a work in progress but there are a lot of positives moving forward with two sophomores and two freshmen playing prominent minutes.

Hampden Academy will travel to South Paris for a 1 p.m. game on Friday. Brewer hosts Cony of Augusta on Thursday at 6 p.m.