Oceanside point guard Cooper Wirkala is a matchup nightmare for most opponents and Camden Hills found that out first-hand on Tuesday night, Dec. 19 in an early-season high school boys basketball clash between athletic rivals and neighbors separated by less than eight miles.

The slender, 6-foot 5-inch junior has the ability to look over most defenders and most taller opponents who attempt to guard cannot keep pace because Wirkala can handle the ball like a much smaller player, is quick and silky smooth with his passing skill and especially shooting touch from the floor, foul line and in drives to the rack.

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Wirkala pumped in a career-high 35 points — 28 of which came in the second half — as the Mariners pulled away from the Windjammers late in the third quarter and sailed to an 81-58 victory in a nearly filled gymnasium with a spirited student section.

Wirkala also pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out five assists in a supreme effort on the hardwood for the hosts, while Mike Norton Jr. chipped in with 19 points and threw down a pair of slam dunks — one in each half — for Oceanside.

Wirkala said with the game being so close midway through the third quarter, “I just had to turn it on.”

“The fans really helped us in the second half,” Wirkala said. “The first half we were a little slow [and] it was a low-scoring first half. Then in the second half, the halftime speech [by coach Matt Breen] was good and we just came out with a different attitude and we just took it to the hole every time.”

Also chipping in for the Mariners, who are 2-1 on the season, were Trevor Reed (9 points), Amos Anderson (9 points), Brett Start (3 points), Jack Lombardo (2 points), Elliot Lucier (2 points) and Silas Miller (2 points).

For Camden Hills, which opened the campaign with a win but have lost three straight since, Noah Heidorn pumped in 17 points, while Daniel Peabody added 12; Jesse Fraser, 11; John Curtin, 10; Jeremy Fraser and Ethan Ford, three; and Michael McGeady, two.

Oceanside held an 8-6 lead after the first quarter and clung to a 24-21 edge at halftime, before the hosts extended their advantage to 54-42 after three stanzas.

The hosts were 23-of-30 (77 percent) from the charity stripe, including Wirkala, who was 13-of-18 (72 percent) on his own for the Mariners. Camden Hills converted 13 of its 27 attempts (48 percent).

Breen said he was pleased with the win, but said his team "has a long way to go to be where they want to be.”

“I’m happy we won and it’s nice to get a win against a rival, but there’s still so much we need to work on,” he said. “Our flow’s not very good offensively. Tonight it was still a lot of 1-on-1, but Coop made a lot of plays. We all look better when Coop’s doing that, but if he’s not finishing or hitting those shots [it’s a different story].”

The game was tight throughout the first half and into the third quarter as the squads combined for four ties and 13 lead changes — including eight in the early stages of the third quarter — with the outcome of the game in doubt.

Neither team led by more than four points until the middle stages of the third stanza, when the Mariners began to slowly and methodically pull away.

The squads were knotted 36-36 when a layup by Lombardo ultimately sparked a 9-1 run — including a hard take on the baseline by Wirkala and a 3-point play by Norton off a steal at midcourt — to put Oceanside ahead 46-37 with 2:03 to go in the stanza.

Heidorn countered with a fadeaway jumper for Camden Hills, but Oceanside took a 52-39 lead after back-to-back treys from Wirkala, the latter coming with a minute to play.

Camden Hills would get no closer than 10 points in the fourth quarter, thanks, largely, to Wirkala’s ability to score either on hard takes to the hoop or by his sharpshooting from beyond the arc.

“Curtin was guarding him [Wirkala] and he was in foul trouble, and we didn’t think he could contain Coop,” said Breen of Camden Hills’ 6-foot 7-inch center. “We were clearing the court out and the help side [defense] was going away so we just kept going to it repeatedly. If you could get around John, there really wasn’t any help or it was coming late and that was either getting him to the line or a three-point play.”

“Between that and Michael had a few dunks and that really lifts the team,” the coach said. “The momentum carried from there. We needed that energy.”

"Oceanside is a really good team," said Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart. "They picked up their intensity after the half and we didn't match it."

Breen added he hopes his players will continue to improve as, despite Tuesday’s win, “the flow has just really not been there.”

We’ve got good players, we just need to work the kinks out,” he said.

Curtin cut the Windjammer deficit to 58-48 when he canned a 3-pointer with 6:50 to go in regulation, but another Wirkala triple, an Anderson floater and a steal that ended with an emphatic dunk by Norton gave Oceanside a 17-point cushion.

The game had the makings of an old-fashioned Eastern Maine game in the early going with the squads combining for six first-quarter field goals and a halftime score in the 20s. Heidorn swished a 3-pointer from halfcourt that would have tied the game, but was just after the halftime buzzer.