Controlled, smart play leads FA boys to comeback over Kennebunk

Raider Joe LeBrun looks to block a Kennebunk shooter's shot. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Playing aggressive and fast can be good, but making good decisions and staying under control is better.

That was the lesson learned last Friday night as the Fryeburg Academy boys’ defeated Kennebunk 62-46 at Wadsworth Arena.

The Raiders tried the first approach against Kennebunk, and enjoyed mixed results. The run-and-gun off Ram turnovers put the Raiders up 8-2 and 15-8 after the first eight minutes.

The lead, however, could have been bigger — much bigger.

“There were times when they turned the ball over and we didn’t convert. After the turnover, we carelessly threw the ball away. There were times we could have had 10 points off turnovers, but we didn’t take advantage,” Raider Coach Sedge Saunders said. “If we score those 10 points and go up by 20, well then you are talking about a different game.”

Playing “team ball” has been the key for the Raiders this season, and it was on full display early as five different players scored in the opening frame.

Junior forward Joe LeBrun made his presence felt early with two strong drives to the rim and several aggressive rebounds. LeBrun tied as the game’s high scorer with 18 points to go along with 7 rebounds.

Throwaways kept the Rams in the game, as did their outside shooting. With the Raiders playing a zone, Kennebunk took advantage of FA defenders getting pinched too deep in the paint, which created wide-open looks. Kennebunk connected on two 3-pointers in the first quarter, and added five in the second frame.

Cameron Lovejoy (18 points) sparked a Ram rally midway through the second quarter with back-to-back treys and Kyle Pasieniuk knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to give Kennebunk a 27-24 lead with 2:24 left in the half.

After Zackary Sullivan connected on another outside jumper to put the Rams up 29-24, the Raiders closed out the half strong as Cody Gullikson went 4-for-4 from the foul line over the final 51.9 seconds to make it a 29-28 Ram lead.

Coach Saunders had to like his team’s overall aggressiveness in the first half as the Raiders held a 16-2 advantage at the foul line (FA was 12-16, while the Rams were 2-of-2). But, Saunders preached being smarter and better on the defensive end if FA was to turn away the upset-minded Rams (3-4).

“We didn’t do a good job getting out on the shooters, and once they made a couple of shots, they gained a lot of confidence. They’re a dangerous team,” Coach Saunders said. “I thought they would shoot a lot of threes, but I didn’t think they would be as successful if we had a hand in their face. Obviously, that was something we talked about at halftime.”

FA switched to man-to-man the entire second half, and those outside-open looks were no longer there for the Rams. In fact, Kennebunk was blanked from behind the arc in the second half.

“I felt the only way they would get back into the game is if their shooters got hot again. We weren’t going to let that happen,” Coach Saunders said.

Meanwhile, the Raiders went on a tear — mainly guard Oscar Saunders, who netted three 3-pointers to finish the night with 17 points.

Fryeburg dominated the game-changing third quarter, putting together a 17-8 run. LeBrun started the surge with two inside hoops, and then Saunders drained two 3-pointers to put FA up 38-29.

After being shut out for the first three minutes of the period, Kennebunk finally snapped a 10-0 run as Pasieniuk (13 points, 4 rebounds) netted corner jumper.

Gullikson answered with a strong baseline drive, which he managed some hang time to free up a shot and then was fouled. Gullikson (12 points, 5 rebounds) converted the free throw for a eight-point lead.

FA closed out the quarter with Scott Parker finding an opening down the lane for a driving hoop and LeBrun sinking a pair of foul shots for a 45-37 Raider lead.

“We settled down offensively in the second half. We were under control. More balanced. Making the right reads. Shooting in rhythm,” Coach Saunders said. “We didn’t force things and I thought we rebounded better. Certainly, we made better decisions.”

Fryeburg players continued to make extra passes to find better scoring chances in the fourth, resulting in many high-percentage shots in the lane.

With the Rams collapsing their defense trying to stop Fryeburg’s aggressive drives to the rim, Caleb Bowles and Saunders each buried 3-pointers to push the Raider lead to 16 points.

Again, the Raider defense was also up to the task, holding the Rams to just 8 and 9 points in the third and fourth quarters.

“I’m proud of the guys for coming out in the second half with renewed purpose and confidence. We rattled off seven straight points, and that was the game right there,” Coach Saunders said. “This was our first game since Dec. 22, so I think we were a little off at first because of the layoff. We just got a better feel for the game in the second half.”

While the two clubs were close statistically in turnovers (FA 15, K 14) and rebounds (FA 29, K 25), the biggest discrepancy came at the foul line. Fryeburg went to the charity stripe 24 times, making 16 while the Rams made just 3 trips, converting each chance.

FA scorers: Ryan Hewes 2, Caleb Bowles 7, Scott Parker 4, Damian Eldridge 2.

FA rebounders: Joe LeBrun 7, Scott Parker 5, Cody Gullikson 5, Ryan Hewes 5, Oscar Saunders 3, Damian Eldridge 3, Caleb Bowles 1.

Kennebunk had 11 offensive boards.

Up next: The Cape Elizabeth game was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday (yesterday) due to bad weather.

When asked what his club needed to do against the Capers, Coach Saunders said, “When we have an opportunity to convert, we better take advantage. We need to score in transition, go up on balance and not rush our shots, make the extra pass, all of the little things you need to do against a very good team. Against a team like Cape Elizabeth, you need to play good, fundamental basketball. You need to be the tougher team out there.”

Coach Saunders added, “There are a lot of things we can build off from this win. The story with this team all year is that they play together. Different guys made key hoops, made big plays. Part of the difficulty tonight is that we didn’t have Tucker Buzzell (ankle sprain). He’s done all of the little things for us. He has provided leadership and is probably our best defensive player. We hope to get him back soon, but I don’t want to rush him. We want him ready for the long haul. He’s tough, but we need to look at the big picture. We’ll see how it goes.”

Results of the Cape game will be published in next week’s edition.

Heal Watch: At 4-2, the Raiders are ranked #5 in Class A South.

Up next: The Raiders host Leavitt this Friday at 6:30 p.m. Then, FA faces a three-game away spot — at Gray-NG, 6:30 p.m., on Monday, at Sacopee Valley at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday, and at Greely on Monday, Jan. 16 at 5:30 p.m.

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