TOPSHAM — As Brunswick prepares for the Eastern Class A boys’ basketball tournament starting next Saturday, the Dragons will do so with lots of confidence.
Six straight wins will have that effect, especially when one is against your biggest rival in a playoff preview.
Brunswick ended its regular season Thursday night by holding off Mt. Ararat in the fourth quarter to pull out a 45-34 win. The victory enabled the Dragons (13-5) to nail down the No. 2 seed for the regional tournament.
“We have gotten a lot better,” Brunswick Coach Todd Hanson said. “We’ve kind of gone to more of a four-out-and-one-in motion (offense). We’ve really emphasized being a ball mover and not a ball stopper. The guys have picked that up and we’ve had big success.”
It was the fourth consecutive loss for Mt. Ararat (9-9), which will go into the regional tournament as the seventh seed. The Eagles and Dragons will meet again next Saturday in a quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
Last month, Mt. Ararat trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter before rallying for a 68-64 win at Brunswick. The Eagles came close to pulling off another comeback Thursday. After trailing by 11 points at halftime, the Eagles twice closed to within three points in the fourth quarter.
“We knew Mt. Ararat had a run in them, and we emphasized composure,” Hanson said. “We knew they would come at us hard. Our goal was to withstand it and maintain our poise and make plays down the stretch. Luckily, we made a few more plays than they did.”
“We just turned the ball over too much when it mattered,” Mt. Ararat Coach Aaron Watson said.
Brunswick got off to a fast start. Blake Gordon, a senior guard, hit three of his four 3-pointers during the first four minutes as the Dragons grabbed an 11-2 lead.
“I’m not sure our confidence is sky-high, right now,” Watson said. “We’re not playing particularly well, but their defense had a lot to do with it. They were great.”
Brunswick’s lead ballooned to 14 points in the second quarter, but Shyheim Ulrickson completed a three-point play in the closing moments to cut the deficit to 22-11.
Mason Griffin, a junior forward, scored seven of his 13 points in the third quarter to help the Eagles close to within 26-21. Gordon, who led all scorers with 20 points, sank 3 of 4 free throws to make it 29-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
But Ulrickson, who led the Eagles with 15 points, wasn’t finished.
With 4:35 remaining, the sophomore guard completed a three-point play to cut Brunswick’s lead to 33-30. It was 37-34 with 1:35 left after two free throws by Ulrickson, but the Dragons sank 6 of 8 free throws in the final 1:18.