By: Christopher Crosby
Defense, it’s said, is the name of the game.
Fresh off their 44-41 quarter final victory against Bangor, sixth-seeded Oxford Hills (12-7) will face second-seeded Brunswick (14-5) for the third time this season in Augusta on Wednesday night at 7p.m.
Led by their guard play, the key to Vikings Coach Scott Graffam’s defensive strategy will be slowing down the Dragon’s perimeter play. Brunswick’s trio of guards – Derek Devereaux, Blake Gordon, and Boyd Elliot have led their attack all season.
It’s a familiar opponent for the Vikings and Graffam, who has split wins against Brunswick, each team winning comfortably at home. In December, the Vikings won 57-39, but a month and a half later they lost 70-55.
They key difference in both of those games was the execution on shutting down Brunswick guard Devereaux, a three-point shooting specialist.
“When we played them up here he got three points and we beat them by 18. Down there he got 21 and we lost by 15. In my mind, he’s going to be the key,” Graffam said.
“We didn’t guard any of them down to Brunswick; here we did and we won.”
Graffam, who throughout his career has geared his teams to stop opponents’ offense, said the strategy has evolved over the course of the season.
“We’ve backed off [the full court press] in the second half of the season. Now we pick out one to two guys we want to put pressure on and the other guys run back, get in the paint, and make sure they don’t get layups on fast breaks.”
The Vikings have held opponents to an average of 49.8 points a game, scoring 56.5 in the process. In games in which the Vikings have held opponents below 50 points, they’re 8-1 and fall to 4-6 when they score more.
“If it’s in the 40?s to 50?s we’ll have a great chance to win. If it’s in the 60?s we’re probably going to struggle,” he said.
On the other half of the court, the centerpiece of the Vikings offense will be 6-foot four-inch left-handed forward Andrew Flemming.
“They can’t guard him,” he said.