PORTLAND – The Maine Red Claws were undermanned and undersized Sunday night.

But they were never outhustled in a 102-95 victory against the Erie BayHawks before an announced crowd of 3,045 at the Portland Expo.

Injuries reduced Maine’s lineup to eight players, none of whom matched up with Erie’s 6-foot-11 center, John Bryant, who put up 32 points.

“They’re a very disciplined defensive team and took us out of some of the things we do,” said Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge. “But I was proud of our guys. We really fought it out.”

The BayHawks closed within 97-94 with 1:43 left. Morris Almond scored on a drive to give Maine a five-point cushion, then snagged the rebound after a 3-point attempt by Mike Gansey.

The Red Claws gave the ball back on a turnover, but Almond got a rebound on Erie’s next possession and was fouled. He made two free throws to give the Claws a 101-94 lead with 22.2 seconds to play.

Almond finished with 18 points. Maurice Ager and Russell Robinson each scored 19, Darnell Lazare added 17 and TJ Cummings had 12, as Maine’s starting five started to look comfortable together.

“They had size but we had speed, hustle and athleticism,” said Lazare.

“It’s a mismatch for both, so it comes down to who can buckle down and get those stops.”

Ager, who also had 10 rebounds, said it’s all a matter of time.

“We’re starting to learn each other a little more. Coach has been patient with allowing us to get that chemistry together,” he said.

Maine led by as many as seven points in the first quarter before Erie (13-24) pulled ahead, 35-28.

The gap reached 10 before the Red Claws went on a 13-5 run to get within two, but the score was tied at halftime, 54-54.

The Red Claws went on a 10-2 run to open the third quarter and never trailed in the fourth.

Food poisoning kept 6-11 center Paul Davis out of Maine’s lineup. He had just rejoined the team on Thursday after missing several games with a concussion.

The Red Claws also have been without forward Anthony Terrell, who has a knee injury.

“We were playing small and played a little different,” said Ainge. “Really, guys just started playing harder …

“Without (Davis and Terrell), that’s down to eight guys and no one over 6-7.”

Maine, which improved to 22-14, has a little more than a month left in the regular season to start getting comfortable for the playoffs.

BayHawks Coach John Treloar was ejected with 4:50 to play, arguing for a foul on a play that sent Cedric Jackson limping off the court.

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: [email protected]