LITTLETON — After six games of uneven play, the Ayer boys’ basketball team found themselves with a 3-3 record heading into Mid-Wach D play. In their league opener at Littleton, the Panthers continued their hot and cold ways, turning the ball over 26 times but using a 42-28 advantage in rebounds to key a 52-44 victory.
“It was an ugly game and our offensive struggles against a zone defense continued,” said Ayer coach John Rivett. "We are seven games into the season and I don’t think we have found an offensive identity. However, we got after it on defense and did a nice job on the boards.”
Behind the solid play of C.J. Jones, the Panthers grabbed early control of the game. The senior guard knocked down a pair of jumpers and added a single free throw in helping Ayer build a four-point lead at 13-9 after a quarter of play.
After a solid first period, the teams combined for 16 points and 18 turnovers in the second quarter, as more basketballs found the walls or bleachers than the bottom of the net.
Despite the sloppiness, the Panthers did put together a 9-3 run to push their lead into double digits. Jon Minnich came off the bench to knock down a pair of jumpers to lead the way as Ayer took a 24-14 advantage into the halftime break.
The lead was cut to six early in the third quarter, but the Panthers responded with 13 of the next 17 points. Jones had four points while Minnich added a bucket and set up a Kenny Rollins three-pointer that extended the lead to 13 at 37-24.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers got within nine on a Jeff Bielefeld lay-in that made it 44-35, but Ayer answered right back. Four points in a 12-second span put the game away as Isiah Connor put home a lay-up off an offensive rebound to make it 49-35 and the Panthers never looked back, picking up the league win.
“C.J. did a great job hitting jumpers tonight and Jon gave us a big lift off the bench,” said Rivett. “We got some solid contributions tonight from a couple of different kids. We just need that one night where we put it all together, hopefully that is coming soon.”
Minnich led Ayer with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Jones finished with 11 points, three assists and three blocked shows. Sean Sullivan added 10 points and six boards while Rollins chipped in eight points, five rebounds and five assists.
Richard Burke paced Littleton with nine points. Kevin Sullivan (seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks) and Bielefeld each had eight points while Zack Clark added six points and five boards.