BANGOR, Maine — Defending state champion Central Aroostook of Mars Hill built a 17-point halftime lead and then withstood a late rally by Katahdin of Stacyville to hold off the Cougars 70-64 in an Eastern Maine Class D boys basketball quarterfinal at the Bangor Auditorium.
The win was the 14th straight for No. 2 Central Aroostook, which will take a 17-3 record into Thursday’s semifinal against No. 3 Shead of Eastport.
Katahdin, the No. 7 seed, ended its season with an 8-11 record.
Senior guard Manny Martinez made three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the second quarter to help Central Aroostook take a 38-24 halftime lead.
That margin grew to as much as 46-29 midway through the third quarter on a baseline drive by Caleb Kelly and a fast-break layup by Brendan York.
The Panthers maintained a 53-38 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Katahdin came battling back, with a 3-point goal by Ethan Qualey and three straight free throws by Evan McCarthy after being fouled on a 3-point attempt helping the Cougars pull within 55-50 with 2:45 to play.
But Central Aroostook capitalized on two straight Katahdin turnovers to create some breathing room, as Mitch Folsom and Martinez each made two free throws to give the Panthers a 59-50 lead with 2:18 left.
McCarthy later was fouled again on a 3-point shot, and again made three free throws. Teammate Kolby Gallagher hit a 3-pointer and Matt McAvoy went inside for a three-point play to cut the Central Aroostook lead to 67-62 with 25 seconds left.
Martinez then made 1 of 2 from the line, and while Brandon Robinson hit a follow-up jumper with eight seconds left to close the gap to 68-64, Martinez made two more free throws with 6.4 seconds to go to put the game away.
Central Aroostook made 23 of 27 free throws during the game, 15 of 18 in the fourth quarter.
Kelly added 12 points for the Panthers, while Kasey Brewer scored 10 and Logan McLaughlin had eight points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Robinson’s 17 points and seven rebounds paced Katahdin, while Josh Guiggey scored 14 points and McCarthy had 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.