MONMOUTH — The Monmouth boys basketball team has a saying: “Adjust to business when business is being done.”

The Mustangs dug in and did just that, avenging one of the few hiccups of their season with an emphatic 49-23 win over rival Hall-Dale in a Mountain Valley Conference game Thursday at Foster Gymnasium.

Monmouth tore the Bulldogs apart in the second half, going on a 21-0 run to begin the fourth quarter that didn’t let up until Ricky Elliott’s 3-pointer with 1:20 left to play provided the visitors’ only points of the final period.

“We knew we had an advantage playing here at home. We knew we could beat them,” Monmouth’s Sam Calder said. “We shoot better, and with a lot more confidence, here at home.”

Calder was especially impressive for the Mustangs. The sophomore scored all but two of his 14 points after halftime, including eight in the fourth period to ignite the home team’s spirited run.

The victory avenged a 44-39 loss at Hall-Dale (6-9) on Jan. 4. In that loss, Monmouth was without senior guard Hayden Fletcher.


Fletcher netted a game-high 18 points Thursday.

“Hayden’s one of those guys that brings more to our team than just points on the board,” Monmouth coach Wade Morrill said. “It’s more than stats. It’s a senior presence, it’s that leadership, it’s that maturity. He’s played a lot of games and he’s a top-level competitor. He brings a steadiness, and all the boys feed off that steadiness.”

Monmouth’s Manny Calder, left, shoots as Hall-Dale’s Bern Nathan defends during a Mountain Valley Conference game Thursday night in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The teams had to grind their way through a first half that, while featuring high intensity, lacked finish. Monmouth held an 8-6 lead through one and 20-14 at the break.

The teams combined to make just two of 18 free throws (11.1 percent) in the opening half and shot a meager 30 percent from the floor.

Whatever had ailed Monmouth’s touch remedied itself in the locker room, while the same could not be said for the visitors. The Bulldogs didn’t shoot well, particularly from the paint, and turned the ball over some two dozen times.

“We have a really, really low basketball IQ, so it starts with that,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “Pick your struggle. Any one of those things is enough to lose against a good basketball team, but when you sprinkle three or four of those categories together and score 20 points … “


Calder spotted a pair of 3-pointers from the left corner and another putback of his own miss to get the Monmouth rally rolling.

“He’s a cool, calm, collected kid, and he’s played a lot of basketball,” Morrill said. “It took him a while to get going for us this year, to get used to real varsity defense. It’s all about confidence for him. I tell him all the time, ‘If you take 30 shots from the corner, you’re going to miss some — that’s just how it is.’

Hall-Dale’s Max Byron, left, looks for an open teammate behind Monmouth defender Gavin Willette during a Mountain Valley Conference game Thursday night in Monmouth. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It’s all about keeping him calm and confident.”

Calder’s space on the perimeter was created by the work Fletcher was doing in the paint, taking advantage of the Bulldogs in the low post without big man Carter Bourque. Bourque saw limited minutes in the third quarter and fouled out early in the fourth.

Bourque’s absence allowed Fletcher room to drive the hoop repeatedly, while also giving the Mustangs an edge on the boards that got their transition game going.

The 23 points were the fewest allowed by Monmouth since Dec. 20 when it held Wiscasset to just 15.

“We are a second-half team, usually, which is kind of weird,” Calder said. “We all just play hard and get after it on defense. We’re dogs.”

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