It was a game that represented this winter’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A boys basketball ranks in microcosm.

Both Brunswick and Brewer had their scoring runs and their cold spells, leading to mixed results at the free-throw line that left the result in doubt until the final buzzer Friday night, when the Dragons escaped with a most satisfying 53-51 road victory.

Senior guard Taran Payne made four first-quarter 3- pointers en route to a gamehigh 20 points for 6-7 Brunswick, which began the night ranked sixth in Eastern Maine Class A, one spot behind 7-6 Brewer.

Junior guard Thomas Hanson added 12 points and 10 rebounds, and he made 4- of-6 free-throw tries over the final two minutes to help his team maintain the slight advantage they held for nearly the entire contest while handing Brewer just its second loss in seven home games.

“We’ve had some games come down to the wire that we couldn’t finish and ended up losing that really could have helped us,” said Hanson. “But our coach always tells us it’s a game of runs and tonight we made a couple more baskets at the end and that was the difference.”

Like the Dragons’ 48-45 win over Brewer at Brunswick on Dec. 23, the rematch provided little opportunity for relaxation.

Brewer took its only lead at 30-29 on a loose-ball lay-up by junior guard Carter Smith midway through the third quarter and forged a 41-41 tie when junior forward Matt Pushard fed Smith for a lay-up with 5:56 left in the game.

Payne answered with a third-chance follow-up shot 38 seconds later to restore Brunswick to a two-point edge, and teammate Pearson Cost followed with two free throws to make it a fourpoint game with 4:07 left.

Brewer rallied within two points on three subsequent occasions, only to have Brunswick make just enough free throws to hold on for the victory.

Brunswick went 11-of-22 from the line for the game, compared to just 6-of-15 for Brewer.

“We had a 12-point lead against Cony in the third quarter (and lost) and we were up four against Messalonskee but we went 3-for-8 from the foul line and lost,” said Brunswick coach Todd Hanson. “We weren’t much better there tonight, but I guess we made the big ones when it counted.

“This was really a big confidence booster for our guys to finally close one out because we had those two tough ones last week.”

Another key for the Dragons was the defensive work led by senior forward Alex Bandouveres against Pushard, the Witches’ leading scorer who went without a point until banking home a 3-pointer from just inside the midcourt stripe line as the halftime buzzer sounded. Pushard finished with 13 points and a game-high 18 rebounds, but Brunswick’s defense largely forced Brewer onto the perimeter for most of its offense, and the Witches made just 5-of-23 attempts from beyond the 3- point arc.

“What they did well was not allow Matt to get the ball within 10 feet of the basket, and when he did there were three of them there,” said Brewer coach Clayton Blood. “After a while you stop making that your intent, and that’s what made them successful, especially in the first half.

“Those weren’t bad shots we were taking — they were the same shots we always take, the threes — but we weren’t making them, and Payne was making his.”

Smith added 12 points for Brewer, while senior guard Jared St. Thomas contributed 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Payne’s early outburst from long distance enabled Brunswick to build a 19-10 lead by the end of the first quarter. After Brewer crept within 19-15 on a pull-up jumper by St. Thomas and a 3-pointer by Jamison Rhoads-Doyle, Brunswick held the Witches scoreless for nearly four minutes while taking their biggest lead of the night at 10 points, the first time at 25-15 on Thomas Hanson’s 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key with 2:03 left in the half.

Pushard’s buzzer-beater, from the right wing a step into frontcourt, cut Brewer’s deficit to 27-20 at intermission.

The Dragons return to action this upcoming Friday at home against Lewiston.

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