HERMON, Maine — Brad Folmer’s idea was to do what he had done throughout the evening, drive hard toward the lane for the game-tying basket.
That likely was a thought shared by Hermon’s defense as the 5-foot-6 junior guard from Ellsworth sped downcourt during the final seconds of Saturday night’s Class B basketball season opener.
But the plan all along was not to force overtime but to win in regulation, so Folmer looked to pass and found sophomore Jordan Carter open on the left wing for a 3-point shot as time expired to give the Eagles a dramatic 73-72 victory.
Hermon took a 72-70 lead with eight seconds left when junior guard Colton Gross drove the lane for a go-ahead 8-footer, then Ellsworth called time with 6.5 seconds to play.
“I wanted Folmer to drive and get as far as he could, and I said I wanted to go for the win,” said Ellsworth coach Peter Austin. “I put Carter on one side and [Pat] Kelley on the other side, but it didn’t work out that way because Kelley and Carter were on the same side. Folmer kind of looked at me kind of funny, but I said if someone’s open out there, let’s go for the win, and that’s what he did.”
Folmer, who scored 19 points, took the inbounds pass content with the game plan.
“I had to get the ball and just go down the court as fast as I could and hit an open man,” Folmer said. “[Carter] was open so I passed it to him.”
Carter, who missed his three previous shots — all 3-pointers — caught the pass, squared himself to the basket and swished the ball through the net as time expired to give Ellsworth its first lead since late in the first quarter.
“Coach just told me in the timeout to stand at the 3-point line and wait for the ball and Brad gave it to me,” Carter said. “I was open, and luckily I hit it.”
Junior forward Ryan Petros led Ellsworth with 25 points, while sophomore forward Andrew Austin had 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Gross led Hermon with 25 points, while senior forward Andy Ball added 17.
Hermon controlled most of the game — Mark Reed’s debut as the Hawks’ head coach — with aggressive transition play featuring Gross and Ball.
Gross made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points overall in the first quarter as the Hawks built a 22-16 lead, and he and Ball combined for 26 points as Hermon held a 39-31 halftime edge.
But while Ellsworth continued its own up-tempo offense after the break, the Eagles also worked the ball inside to the 6-foot Petros and the 6-1 Austin, who not only scored but lured Hermon into foul trouble.
Hermon led by as much as 11 on three occasions, the last at 57-46 on the second of two straight baskets by Taylor Gross with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
But Petros scored 12 points in the period to rally Ellsworth within 59-52 and combined with Austin and Folmer to make 15 of 20 free throws in the second half to help make the comeback possible.
“We’re playing a different style this year and pressing 90 percent of the time, hoping to wear down the opponent and get some easy shots,” said coach Austin. “Obviously, we want to get it down low as much as we can, even though we’re undersized, to draw some fouls. That’s what happened today, they got in some foul trouble and we shot pretty well from the line.”
Two free throws each by Austin and Petros drew Ellsworth within 64-62 midway through the fourth quarter, but Hermon still took a 69-66 lead into the final minute.
Austin made two free throws as Ball fouled out, and after Colton Gross hit 1 of 2 from the line, Folmer drove to the basket, got fouled and made both of his tries to forge a 70-70 tie with 26.3 seconds left.