Boys Basketball: Eagles succumb to Blue Blazes' intensity

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WESTBROOK – Zac Manoogian posted a game-high 17 points for the Blue Blazes vs. visiting Mt. Ararat on Thursday evening, Dec. 15. Solid performances by Ryan Mello, Cole Guerin and Austin Damon couldn’t keep the Eagles on pace with Westbrook, who pulled away as the game progressed to take the W, 59-32.

“The kids gave a good effort tonight,” Westbrook head coach Dan LeGage said of his boys. “They were doing everything they could to work together. That was a good first step, early in the season – the intensity. But the execution, we have a long way to go. I think that’s normal.”

The Blazes struck first, Kyle Champagne knocking down a quick three to ignite a fiery run through the opening quarter. Manoogian followed Champagne up with a three-point-play and another two (off a defensive rebound by Landon Sjoberg), before Mt. A finally got on the board – a two by Mello.

Manoogian added five more (two twos and a free), Deng Jany tallied a lone free and Hamza Hanifi added a three to close the first as the Blazes picked up steam. The Eagles weren’t silent during the stretch, of course – Mello and Damon both bucketed points – but they simply couldn’t match their hosts.

Hanifi hashed two from the line to boost Westbrook’s lead to 17-6 at the start of the second; Champagne, Bailey Sawyer and Jack Haggerty all hit free-throws as well as the quarter unfolded.

Frees, in fact, proved a distinct advantage for the Blazes across the night. Mt. A may not have committed an unusual number of defensive fouls from tip-off to final buzzer, but they nevertheless committed too many, delivering Westbrook 14 points on 21 attempts from the line. For their part, the Blazes played exceptionally clean defense, never sending the Eagles to the line until midway through the second, and only permitting them five attempts (they hit three) in the entire outing.

Any advantage is a critical advantage, of course. This proved particularly true for Westbrook when Manoogian got in foul trouble early in the second and found himself taking a seat. He didn’t log another point before the break, and the Blazes’ output naturally dipped because of it – whereas the team put up 15 in the first, 15 in the third and 18 in the fourth, they managed just 11 with Manoogian off his feet.

“At that point,” LeGage said of Manoogian’s foul troubles, “we were like, ‘This could go either way,’ so we wanted to protect him for the second half.”

Westbrook ratcheted incrementally ahead as the night went on, and they secured victory by a huge margin, 59-32. In addition to Manoogian’s 17, Sawyer notched nine, Champagne seven, Sjoberg seven, Haggerty six and Hanifi five. Mello contributed nine for Mt. A, Guerin eight and Damon five.

“It’s always positive to win,” LeGage said. “But you’ve got to take away and get back to work tomorrow on the things we need to get better…Class A South is really rigorous. If you want to be a top team, there’s no nights off.”

The victory bumped the Blazes to 1-1 on the winter; they fell on Tuesday night the 13th in their home opener, 59-50 to South Portland. They travel to Fryeburg on Tuesday the 20th, then host Cape two days later.

The Eagles, meanwhile, slipped to 1-2. Mt. Ararat kicked off their season with a 38-30 home win over Leavitt before falling first to Brunswick (59-37), then to Westbrook. They welcome York on Tuesday.

A mass of Blazes and Eagles – including Westbrook’s Bailey Sawyer (12) and Mt. A’s Austin Damon (43) – vie for a midair ball.

Eagle Cole Guerin soars forward on the attack.

Westbrook’s Landon Sjoberg dogfights with Mt. A’s Austin Damon for control.

Ryan Mello logged a team-high nine points for Mt. A at Westbrook.

Mt. A’s Steven Gerencer attempts a layup.

Westbrook defender Landon Sjoberg takes to the air, meaning to keep Mt. A’s Steven Gerencer from lifting off himself.

Mt. A’s Ryan Mello slips past Zac Manoogian but collides with Abier Manyiel, losing control of the ball in the process.

Austin Damon looks for ball-movement opportunities.

Mt. A’s Cam Cox releases a layup attempt.

Eagle Ryan Mello slips through the Westbrook defense.

Mt. A’s Jared Balser unwinds into a shot.

Eagle Ryan Mello throws up a shot even as he bounces off one Westbrook defender (foreground) backwards into another, Bailey Sawyer.

Westbrookers Jack Haggerty and Abier Manyiel defend Mt. A’s Austin Damon.