Orono's Pierce Walston attempts a layup against Foxcroft's Jadon Richard on Friday, Jan. 27 at Orono High School. Credit: Adam Robinson / BDN

After losing to John Bapst in overtime in its previous game, Orono was looking to bounce back against Foxcroft Academy at home on Friday night.

The crowd was packed and both schools had rowdy student sections ready to watch the two Class B North boys basketball powerhouses battle, and on Friday it was Orono who took over and earned a 74-52 victory.

Pierce Walston, Orono’s star junior guard, scored 11 of his 24 points in the third quarter to help the Red Riots (13-2) pull away from the Ponies (9-4).

After the first quarter, Orono held onto a 17-13 lead thanks to five points from Walston and seven from Ben Francis. Jadon Richard scored six of his 11 points for Foxcroft in the first, as well.

Francis opened the second quarter with a wide-open 3-pointer in the left corner after miscommunication amongst the Foxcroft defense, which gave the Red Riots a 20-13 advantage.

Foxcroft coach Toby Nelson called an immediate timeout and gathered his players on the sideline.

“I didn’t want this to get out of hand,” Nelson said. “One thing I told them was to not let them get on a run. They hit a three so I had to call a timeout.”

Ben Francis finished with 20 points for Orono.

Walston added seven more points in the second quarter to counter Foxcroft’s Adam Connor, who scored seven in the second period, as well.

Orono took a 32-26 lead into the half and came out of the break slowly and full of mistakes.

“In the third I thought that lead could have ballooned quicker,” Orono coach Ed Kohtala said. “We missed a layup, bounced one off the ceiling and I turned to the assistant that we are up six but we should be up 12. Then the dam broke.”

The dam broke to the tune of 29 third-quarter points for Orono as the players attacked the rim over and over. The drives to the basket opened up space around the 3-point line, leading to threes from Ben Francis, Will Francis, Brady Hews and Ellis Spaulding.

At one point in the third quarter, Ben Francis drilled a triple from the left corner, then on defense Will Francis pinned a block on the backboard and turned around and quickly started the offense. Walston picked up an offensive rebound after the block and put the ball back up and in to give Orono a 47-31 lead with 3:26 left.

“We ask a lot of Pierce,” Kohtala said. “He can score at a high level, he defends well. He’s actually a natural two guard but we ask him to distribute. Even being out of his natural position he’s second in the conference in assists per game. You never have to worry about him being ready to play.”

Orono slowed down the offense in the fourth and scored just 13 in the final frame, but it was more than enough to overwhelm the Ponies.

“Orono was extremely hot, I don’t know what they were percentage-wise but you can’t give them open looks because they’ll knock them down,” Nelson said. “Our kids are resilient. They’ll fight back but some nights are not your night. Orono played exceptionally well, so hats off to them.”

Foxcroft didn’t get many chances to guard Orono in the halfcourt, and Kohtala said that was by design. The Red Riots pushed the ball up the floor quickly on almost every possession.

The Red Riots are feeling great heading into the final weeks of the regular season.

“I felt really good, so at the end of practice (on Thursday) I told them yesterday that our energy was so good, our bounce was so good that let’s shoot some free throws and go play tomorrow,” Kohtala said.

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Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson is a native of Auburn, Maine, and graduate of Husson University and Edward Little High School. He enjoys sports, going on runs and video games.