In the fourth quarter, point guard Marcel Anderson drove in, then passed the ball to where he thought Frank Gaines was.
The ball sailed out of bounds, well away from Gaines. The two looked at each other – and smiled.
It was an enjoyable night to be playing for the Maine Red Claws and one mistake wasn’t going to dampen the fun.
After losing four straight, the Red Claws romped to a 115-92 win over the Erie Bayhawks before a soldout crowd of 3,045 that ignored the snow Saturday night and filled the Portland Expo.
Six players scored in double figures, led by Damen Bell-Holter’s 24 points. Gaines notched 18 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Babb scored 17, including five 3-pointers. Abdul Gaddy had 14 points and five assists, and Sherwood Brown scored 13. Center Ty Walker scored 11 with nine rebounds.
“The ball movement was excellent, possibly the best we’ve had all year,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said.
The Red Claws (9-12) stopped the skid but are only 2-6 in their last eight games.
Erie (6-15) began the season 1-11, including a 27-point loss in Portland in November, but were 5-3 in their next eight games.
Maine was playing short-handed. Before the game the Red Claws said starting forward Romero Osby will miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Then the leading scorer, Chris Wright, was scratched with flu-like symptoms.
“Coach always says we’re a next-man-up team,” Bell-Holter said. “He just told me to be aggressive.”
It was Bell-Holter’s best game in his rookie season.
“Really proud of the team. They relied on each other,” Taylor said. “The guys made plays for each other. Damen came in and gave us a big lift.”
Brown, a rookie guard from Florida Gulf Coast, the Cinderella team of last year’s NCAA tournament, made his Expo debut. Along with his points, he grabbed seven rebounds.
This game was never in doubt. Erie’s last lead came halfway through the first quarter. Maine led 60-45 at halftime and 91-65 after three quarters.
Former Red Claws forward Justin Brownlee led Erie with 26 points.
The Red Claws play at Canton on Monday and at Iowa on Thursday. They return to the Expo next Saturday for a 7 p.m. game against Fort Wayne.
NOTES: Osby became the third Red Claws starter with a season-ending injury. Guards Jermaine Taylor and Kam Taylor (no relation) went down with knee injuries. … The Bayhawks signed former Red Claws forward Micah Downs to a contract Thursday. He hasn’t joined the team. Downs averaged 16 points last year as a rookie. He recently played in Ukraine, a teammate of another former Maine player (DaJuan Summers). … Veteran NBA referee Eddie Rush was one of the officials.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: