Eagles ride early lead to win over Bangor
WINDHAM – Nick Curtis led as the Eagles took down Bangor on Friday afternoon, Dec. 23. Curtis amassed 18 all told, including 10 in the critical first quarter, which saw the home team grab a huge advantage over the Rams. From there, Windham never looked back, dispatching their guests 63-53 in the end.
“It was a very big win,” said Windham head coach Chad Pulkkinen. “It’s a AA North competitor that beat us out last year for a playoff spot. We know they’ll be there at the end of the year. Well-coached…Coach (Carl) Parker’s a great coach. So the way our guys responded to start the game, then [Bangor] made their little run, we kind of pushed off that run.”
“We had a close game that slipped away against Oxford Hills last week,” Pulkkinen said. “So it was good for our guys to get back on track here. We’ve got a great group of kids, and they’re starting to believe in each other, which is good. We’re starting to get better. They work hard every day, so it was one of those games where I really wanted them to reap the rewards of the hard work.”
No. 6 Windham advances to 2-3 with the win. The Eagles welcome Lewiston (currently in last at 0-5) on New Year’s Eve, then travel to Gorham (third at present, 2-3) on Jan. 6.
No. 7 Bangor, meanwhile, slides to 1-2. The Rams host Deering (No. 4 at 3-1) on Tuesday the 27th and Hampden (5-0 in A North, ranked second at the time of this writing) on Dec. 30.
Chris Brown kicked off the scoring on Friday, draining a three to open the game. Bangor’s Luke Tuell responded with a two, but the Eagles then broke into a bludgeoning run: Hunter Coffin added a three, then assisted Zach Petcher on a two before Curtis added two twos and Brown a two as well. In short order, Windham stood on top 14-2.
And they weren’t done yet: Points by Bangorites George Payne and Damien Vance kept the Rams breathing, but Curtis himself battered them for six more – four on steals – and Nazari Henderson added another two for 22-6. Logan Alley beat the buzzer with a three to bump Bangor up to nine, but they were nevertheless already one-foot-in-the-grave.
Pulkkinen acknowledged how important his boys’ opening run proved. “We’ve had a tough time at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We started off against Deering and Cheverus with slow starts. That’s what the focus has been: Come out strong, with some aggression and some urgency to make our mark early in the game, and once that happens, things start opening up for us, once the ball’s swinging and we’re doing all the right things that way.
“But we really started on the defensive end in that first quarter. Our guys got out in passing lanes and really made it tough for them to score, and did all our assignments pretty well.”
The remainder of the game proved significantly more even. Both teams added nine in the second quarter – Curtis, Mike Gilman and Deirhow Bol did the honors for Windham – and the Rams even outpaced their hosts in the third, putting up 18 and doubling their score while holding the Eagles to 11. 42-36.
Windham regained its footing in the fourth, though, and pried open their advantage once again. Coffin found Gilman on a long inbounds pass – and Gilman promptly scored – to start the stretch. Petcher completed a three-point play and Coffin slipped in a two and suddenly the Eagles were out front by 13 all over again.
Bangor called timeout, but whatever adjustments they sought to effect ultimately made little difference. Gilman drained a downtowner soon after the teams’ return to the court, Curtis assisted Coffin on two more and Brown bucketed again as well, giving the Eagles their largest lead yet at 56-38.
To the Rams’ great credit, they fought back, significantly slicing into their deficit before the buzzer tolled. Still, they only pulled within 10: 63-53 the final.
In addition to Curtis’s 18, Gilman finished with 10, Coffin with eight and Brown with seven. Seven other Eagles also put up points, demonstrating a diverse attack the team is no doubt proud of.
Asked about Curtis’s contributions in particular, Pulkkinen praised his point guard on several fronts: “Everyone in the League knows Nick’s a pretty good player, so when he’s on and he’s finding guys, we’re pretty tough to guard, because he’s tough to guard himself. Oxford Hills did a triangle and one on him last week, and he’s seen a lot of different sets – Deering pressured him pretty hard. But he’s a competitor; he’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. He had a triple double against Lewiston and then he was in the gym the next morning at five in the morning. That’s just the type of kid he is. He’s kind of the leader we need and he does a great job in finding guys when they need to be found.”
But Pulkkinen didn’t stop there; he spoke highly of a number of his other players as well. “The other guys step up,” he said. “Mike’s a great shooter and Nick knows that; Hunter, he’s our defensive anchor, as far as he can take charges and be there for his team. Those are pretty important for us to have. The key guys are there. Those are the things we’re pretty excited about with our young group – those guys are pretty young. They’ve got one year of experience, and they’re proving that they’ve matured a little bit and worked hard in the off-season.” Curtis, Gilman and Coffin are all juniors.
“Then you’ve guys that come off the bench,” Pulkkinen said, “that bring a lot of energy and a different value that we need to be successful.”
Adam Birt can be reached at a[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
WINDHAM 63, BANGOR 53: The Eagles (2-3) took a 22-9 lead in the first quarter and defeated the Rams (1-2) at Windham.
Nicholas Curtis led Windham with 18 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and four steals. Mike Gilman added 10 points.
George Payne scored 10 points for Bangor.
Bangor 9 9 18 17—53
Windham 22 9 11 21—63