Raiders pick the Falcons apart

Tucker Buzzell was a force inside the lane at both ends of the court, hauling dow 10 rebounds in the win over Freeport. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — When he sees his team move the ball with quick, clean passes and find open players for easy buckets, Raider Coach Sedge Saunders knows his basketball team is in a good place.

Other than a brief lull in the second quarter, the Raiders used a balance of strong inside play by Tucker Buzzell (12 points and 10 rebounds) and consistent outside shooting from Oscar Saunders (14 points, two treys) and Scott Parker (11 points) to clip Freeport 55-45 last Wednesday at Wadsworth Arena.

“These guys have been sharing the ball really well the past few weeks. We’re making good passes and finishing strong and executing well down the stretch. I wish we were shooting our free throws better, but all in all, we seem pretty confident closing out games, much better than earlier in the year,” Coach Saunders said. “We’re doing a better job of ball control, using ball fakes and pulling up to take short shots rather than forcing it.”

Oscar Saunders knocks down a short jumpshot.

FA opened with a 13-9 run behind 3-pointers from Saunders and Ryan Hewes, along with a bucket-and-one from Parker.

While the Raiders shot just 2-of-8 from the field in the second, Freeport erased a double-digit deficit with a 10-1 run to end the half behind 3-pointers from Ethan Sclar (8 points) and Toby Holt (15 points). The Falcons had a chance to tie the game, but Saunders got good position on a fastbreak attempt and was able to draw a charge, erasing the score.

“We hit some shots early, which helps, then we missed a couple of easy ones and then started to hesitate a little bit,” Coach Saunders said. “They started to drive it pretty hard. They’re not a bad team and we were worried about them getting to the rim. They play teams tough. I knew we had to take away dribble penetration and contest the three.”

Scott Parker rises up for a long shot attempt.

FA went to a “junk” defense to start the second half, and then switched to their zone defense down the stretch.

After Freeport took a brief 31-30 lead with 5:29 left in the third quarter, FA responded with a 9-2 surge, all points coming inside the paint. The Raider defense tightened, and Freeport failed to record a point or field goal until the 4:14 mark of the fourth period. By then, the Raiders had built a 14-point lead and never let the Falcons sniff a chance of a rally.

“I thought we did a good job defensively,” Coach Saunders said. “We want to be playing our best going into the tournament. We need to pay attention to details and stick together. That’s what they have been doing. Hopefully, we can build upon it.”

One area FA will certainly look to improve upon is free throw shooting, where they went 13-of-24. Freeport was just 1-of-5.

Reese Kneissler scores the bucket despite Freeport block attempts.

A plus, however, was the play of several reserves, who saw more prime time playing chances with senior Cody Gullikson out due to injury.

“Cody (Gullikson) being out is a big loss because he is a physical presence, hard-nosed competitor. We have had guys step up and fill the void collectively. In the long run, it will make us stronger and better,” Coach Saunders said. “We have guys that have experience now, and are confident that they can handle just about anything that is thrown at them. They like to compete. They like each other. They play hard in practice. That’s all you can ask.”

For the Raiders, Ryan Hewes finished with 5 points, Joe LeBrun 4, Reese Kneissler 4, Nathan Knapp 3 and Caleb Bowles 2.

Heal Watch: With three games to go — York on Friday, at Lake Region Tuesday (7 p.m., time change) and at Greely Thursday — the Raiders (7-8) sit in the 8th spot in Class A West, just one tourney point behind Brunswick.

Ryan Hewes heads to the hoop.

In other action

Raiders 64, Poland 45: Oscar Saunders connected for three 3-pointers and led FA in scoring with 13 points as the Raiders started quick with a 19-10 opening quarter run and downed the Knights.

FA recorded seven treys with Caleb Bowles hitting two and finishing with 12 points, while Joe LeBrun also netted a pair to score 8 points. Other scorers: Reese Kneissler 8, Scott Parker 6, Nathan Knapp 5, Ryan Hewes 4, Tucker Buzzell 4, Calvin Southwick 2 and Adam Canfield 2.

Gray-NG 64, Raiders 48: The Patriots snapped FA’s two game win streak Tuesday night, taking command in the fourth quarter with a 22-8 push to down the Raiders.

Tucker Buzzell was the game’s high scorer with 14 points while Scott Parker contributed 13. Other scorers: Oscar Saunders 9, Nathan Knapp 6, Joe LeBrun 4 and Ryan Hewes 2.

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