Basketball: Gray-NG stuns, overpowers Spruce Mountain

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Spruce Mountain's Andrew Shaw shoots the ball during Saturday's 2018 Maine State basketball tournament at the Portland Expo.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

By Tony Blasi, Sun Journal

PORTLAND — It seemed that any time Gray-New Gloucester took a shot, the ball found its way through the net at the Portland Expo on Saturday afternoon.

The No. 5 Patriots’ (12-7) precision shooting outside and inside the paint put an abrupt end to No. 4 Spruce Mountain’s transition game (13-6) and allowed them to lock up a 57-34 victory in a Class B South boys’ basketball quarterfinal.

Gray-New Gloucester’s Zack Pomerleau passes the ball between Spruce Mountain’s Mason Shink and Nick Lombardi during Saturday’s 2018 Maine State basketball tournament at the Portland Expo.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

“The more you score the more we get them out from what they want to do, and we keyed on that transition, just trying to deny outlets so they can’t get that easy pass and deny that reversal right away,” Gray-NG coach Ryan Deschenes said. “They caught a few open looks and they made them. They are really good shooters, but for the most part, we made them work extremely hard on offense.

“They have three guards who can shoot really, really well, so we keyed on that all week against their offense and what they like to do. We were just trying to take away what they were trying to do and that’s what (our) guys did really well. We had a great week of practice.”

Besides dropping seven demoralizing 3-pointers on the Phoenix, Gray-New Gloucester was equally devastating from the free-throw line, going 12-for-15.

The Patriots were all over the Phoenix in the first half as Spruce helplessly watched Gray-NG’s countless shots fill the air and find their targets with ease. The Patriots’ defense was just as formidable, holding the Phoenix to 10 points in the first half and that explains a 26-10 halftime lead.

Spruce Mountain’s Brett Frey shoots at the basket past Gray-New Gloucester’s Ryan Lachance during Saturday’s 2018 Maine State basketball tournament at the Portland Expo.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

But there was another reason the Phoenix fell far behind — their shooting. Spruce’s perimeter shooting — one of its trademarks — was sporadic at best.

“I thought we settled. I thought we settled a lot for things that we are comfortable doing,” Spruce coach Scott Bessey coach said. “Things that we are not comfortable doing are the things that I think we needed to do.

Spruce Mountain’s Andrew Shaw shoots the ball during Saturday’s 2018 Maine State basketball tournament at the Portland Expo.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

“Settling for 3s I thought cost us a little bit. We didn’t get many things in transition. When transition opportunities were there, I thought we struggled to make the right decision. Didn’t get a lot of easy looks and the easy looks we did get, we missed. We had some bunnies that we typically made that didn’t go in.

“I thought the good 3s that we took in rhythm where the ball went inside …. or a kicked out 3 or an extra pass we made. The ones we were missing were the ones we were settling for.”

Bessey said his Phoenix made “uncharacteristically” too many turnovers, too.

“I thought we turned the ball over on a lot of occasions where we typically don’t during the season,” Bessey said. “I thought confidence and a little bit of mental toughness, they had the edge.”

Spruce Mountain’s Kayle Stewart drives to the basket past Gray-New Gloucester’s Josiah Rottari during Saturday’s 2018 Maine State basketball tournament at the Portland Expo.(Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Gray-New Gloucester’s junior guard Zack Pomerleau (three 3-pointers) and 6-foot-5 junior center Hunter Colby each scored 12 points. Junior guard John Martin added 11 points.

“Before the game, I wasn’t shooting that well and I just didn’t want it to get in my head,” Pomerleau said. “I am an emotional player, and if I let that stuff get in my head, I won’t do it.

“We planned a lot for their offense. We knew they were a high-tempo team … so we just practiced their half-court offense…and we just knew what was coming. So we just planned really well for this. We had our best defensive performance of the year.”

Senior Mason Shink led the Phoenix with nine points.

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