Ayer Shirley senior captain Ryan Richard works on Maynard’s leading scorer Ryan Fowler. Richard finished the game with a team-high 17 points and 11
Ayer Shirley senior captain Ryan Richard works on Maynard's leading scorer Ryan Fowler. Richard finished the game with a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. (Nashoba Publishing/ Ed Niser)

AYER - Ayer Shirley hosted Mid-Wach D front-runner Maynard Monday night and for the better part of three quarters, the Panthers managed to keep the sharp-shooting Tigers tamed.

Maynard's Ryan Fowler erupted for 27 points, seven rebounds and three steals to lead the Tigers past Ayer Shirley, 65-50.

Ayer Shirley senior captain Ryan Richard finished the night with a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds.

"Fowler scores in a variety of ways, and he beat us around the basket," Ayer Shirley head coach Justin Carlson said after the loss. "We knew he was going to be tough going in. We had Ryan (Richard) defending him - unfortunately, he got into foul trouble, which changed the way he is used to playing. They play good defense and pressure the ball really well. Maynard created a lot of second opportunities on the defensive glass."

Maynard out rebounded Ayer Shirley 29-24 for the game.

The first quarter started with the momentum favoring of the hosts after Richard rattled home a three-pointer from the left elbow to put the Panthers out in front, 3-0, 20 seconds in.

However, four straight points from the free throw line by Fowler, prompted Carlson to burn a timeout with 3:49 remaining in the opening quarter.

Out of the timeout, senior captain Anthony Burwell kissed his shot from the top of the key off the window to give the Panthers a 5-4 lead. The two teams traded baskets down the stretch, including another three-pointer by Richards. Zach Boerman swished a jumper in the lane to give Maynard a 14-11 lead at the end of one. Midway through the second quarter, Maynard cobbled together a 10-0 run behind the hot-hand of Joe Westerman.

Westerman was 4-of-7 from three-point range in the game. However, Ayer Shirley came roaring back at the end of the quarter with a little 6-0 spurt of its own behind the strong play of Burwell (seven points, five rebounds) and Richard.

Joey Holmes brought the Panthers within three with 14 seconds remaining in the half, 29-26. The Panthers' run would be halted at 10 points after it took just its second lead of the game on a slicing lay-up by junior Christopher Patano with 6:20 remaining in the quarter.

Ayer Shirley's lead would be short-lived as the Tigers went on a 12-2 explosion of their own. At the end of three quarters, Ayer Shirley found itself down 48-36 - a deficit that it would not recover from.

The Panthers continued to fight in the fourth quarter, but Maynard proved to be too strong on the glass.

"Some good things were that we were able to stop their runs and put some runs together of our own," the coach said. "It is comforting that we are going to get points from Richard going in. It's just a matter of who is going to help him out. I was happy with the effort - we didn't execute when it came down to it. Our schedule has been tough all together. We are learning quickly, and there are a lot of positives - it would not surprise me if we turned it around pretty quick."