AYER -- Ayer Shirley was riding high on a four-game winning streak prior to its last two contests against Mid-Wach D front-runners, Littleton and Maynard.
Friday night, the Panthers were dropped by Maynard, 64-48. The Panthers only lead came in the early stages of the first quarter, but Littleton senior Travis Basset roasted the Panthers' defense for 30 points to lead the Tigers to a 60-44 victory Sunday night in Littleton.
"We seem to allow that one player on each team to have big games against us," Ayer Shirley head coach Justin Carlson said. "To his (Bassett) credit, he executed their game-plan pretty well. He knocked down the shots he was expected to make. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, we were down 10 points or so and then we cut it to five with about 3:30 left. Then we just started to make too many mistakes -- too many turnovers. They made more plays down the stretch to increase their lead. The game was a lot closer than the score indicates."
Ayer Shirley senior guard Zak Walker was playing in his second game of the season, after a knee injury he suffered late in the football season sidelined him. Walker added one point, three assists and four rebounds.
"Zak offers leadership and he can kind of direct the basketball play out there," the coach said. "We just need to get him more minutes. He is just going to get better and better with the more experience he gets. We are just trying to get a few more wins with him out there."
Ayer Shirley trailed Littleton 10-7 at the end of one quarter. The Panthers' lone lead of the game came with 6:40 remaining in the first on an athletic play by Michael Davis, who kept the ball from going out of bounds and skipped a pass to Kyle Levensailor, who buried the mid-range jumper, 4-2.
A baby jump hook from Ryan Richard and a free throw from Walker accounted for the final Panthers' points of the opening quarter.
Basset netted six of the Tigers' 10 points in the first. Littleton went on an 8-0 run to begin the second quarter behind the stalwart defense and offense of Bassett. Littleton's lead quickly ballooned to eight following a free throw by Elijah Pyram, 17-9.
Ayer Shirley would draw as close as six in the second, but Littleton ended the half on a 6-0 flurry to take a 25-17 lead at the half.
Christopher Patano (14 points, eight rebounds) opened the second half with a splashdown three from the left-elbow off a skip pass by senior captain Anthony Burwell to cut the Tigers' lead to 27-20. Littleton outscored Ayer Shirley 22-8 in the third quarter.
Trailing 42-35 heading into the final quarter, Ayer Shirley started its comeback. The Panthers trimmed Littleton's lead to five, 40-35, following two consecutive baskets by Levensailor. That was as close as Ayer Shirley would get, as it drops to 5-6 and 3-4 in the Mid-Wach D. Ryan Richard paced Ayer Shirley with his 17 points and nine rebounds.
"Chris has that potential to be a big scorer night in and night out," he said. "It was nice to see him come in and step up in a big game like he did tonight. Ryan has been consistent all season. We have relied on him all year to score for us and grab rebounds, too. We just lost to Littleton and Maynard two games in a row. It puts things into perspective. We know we are a good basketball team, but at the same time, we are not quite at that level where we need to be."