BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – The Maine Celtics, presented by Unum, buckled down defensively and overcame a slow shooting start to win 110-100, sweeping a two-game road series against the Westchester Knicks.
Jaysean Paige’s 22 points (9-15 FG) in 25 minutes off the bench were Maine’s (7-1) team-high. Theo Pinson added 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Cullen Russo put up 12 and eight rebounds along with two blocks. Sam Hauser had 11 points and Brodric Thomas posted 10 points, six boards, four assists and three steals. Deng Adel tallied eight points and seven rebounds as a reserve.
Thomas dished a no-look dime to Russo for Maine’s first points just over a minute into the game. In a much slower start than Saturday’s matchup, it took the Knicks nearly four minutes to get the lid off the basket before Luka Samanic scored five quick points. A cold shooting start for Maine and a spark from Two-Way player Miles McBride helped the Knicks to an early 12-point lead before a transition three from Hauser made it 18-11. Westchester led 20-16 after one with both teams shooting under 30 percent from the floor. Juwan Morgan hauled in eight rebounds to go with two points in the first.
Paige was all over the court in the second, pouring in 16 points in 10 minutes off the bench before taking a seat halfway through the quarter. A 23-9 run for Maine gave them a 27-24 lead, but McBride would answer with a three to tie it up. Paige, Russo and Thomas paced the Celtics’ offense, which was bolstered by some improved shooting (4-8 3P in 2Q), and Maine took a 51-47 lead into the locker room. Paige led all scorers with 16 points (6-9 FG) at halftime, with Pinson adding eight points and five rebounds. Russo had seven points. Maine shot 35.7 percent from the field and 30 percent from downtown, while Westchester shot 28.8 percent from the field and 24.1 percent on 3-pointers.
It was an eventful start to the half for Pinson; he buried a triple on the opening possession, earned a trip to the line the next time down, and then was whistled for a technical foul moments later. Russo and Aamir Simms battled down low, with Simms sitting down after his fourth foul sent Thomas to the free-throw line. Kenny Wooten, Jr.’s rim protection and rebounding helped Maine to a 70-58 lead. Westchester made a run late in the third, but Chris Clemons iced it with a pair of threes to put Maine uo 82-67.
Russo battled for an offensive rebound and found Hauser for a corner-three on the kick-out to start the final quarter. Samanic’s long-range marksmanship kept the Knicks alive, as he hit three triples while Westchester hit their first five shots from deep in the fourth. Maine’s lead shrunk to nine, 95-86 halfway through, but the Celtics did enough to keep Westchester at bay down the stretch. Maine shot 41.6 percent (32-77) from the field, 38.2 percent from deep (13-34) after a 2-11 start, and 73.3 percent (11-15) from the line. Westchester hit 35.9 percent (33-92) from the field, 35.3 percent (18-51) from downtown and 100 percent (11-11) at the charity stripe.