BANGOR, Maine — The Calais boys basketball team had shown signs of a dynasty in decline.
One star player went down with a knee injury even before preseason practices began. That was followed by four losses, a stunning total for a program that had been defeated just once in the previous three winters.
Talk around the region suggested this was the year the Blue Devils’ reign might end.
It was all a ruse.
Coach Ed Leeman’s club completed a dominating run through the regional tournament Saturday night, pulling away from No. 5 Stearns of Millinocket 71-45 to win its fourth consecutive Eastern Maine Class C title.
“We’re playing at a very high level for us right now,” said Leeman. “These kids don’t know how not to win, and I give them a ton of credit. They’ve got supreme confidence in themselves, and they just keep playing.”
Senior center Cal Shorey — whose brother Cameron was injured during football season and sidelined for the winter — had 27 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists for No. 2 Calais.
Junior guard Jeremy Carr had 18 points and senior guard Jordan Leeman finished with 13 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the 16-4 Blue Devils, who will face Dirigo of Dixfield Saturday night in Bangor for the state title.
“I honestly just think it’s our chemistry, losing is just not in this team’s vocabulary,” said Jordan Leeman. “If we lose, we’re not accepting it, so we just try to work harder than everybody we’re going to play.”
Calais came to the tourney determined to run on every forced turnover or after every defensive rebound, and no one stopped the Blue Devils — who outscored their three opponents by an average of 29.3 points per game.
“We just played a game that no one really picked up on,” said Carr. “We outletted the ball, we pushed the ball, we ran the floor. We had everyone just running and getting good looks.”
Stearns (18-3) matched the Blue Devils early behind point guard Garen Manzo and forward Brandon McLaughlin, and led 28-24 on a 3-pointer by Manzo with 4:55 left in the second quarter.
But Jordan Leeman followed in his own miss and then made his second 3-pointer within a two-minute span to help Calais outscore the Minutemen 14-2 and take a 38-30 halftime lead.
“Early on we were a little sloppy — if we didn’t make a shot, we turned it over,” said Jordan Leeman. “It was pretty ugly, but when we went in up eight, it was a bonus.”
The Blue Devils then packed in their defense to prevent Stearns from driving into the lane, and the Minutemen made just 6 of 28 shots from the field in the second half.
“In the first half we weren’t playing the defense coach usually stresses, so he told us we had to buckle down,” said Shorey. “We came out in the second half and did that and got a lot of transition baskets from it, a lot of layups.”
Stearns was still within 47-39 entering the fourth quarter, but Calais put the game away with a 10-2 run that began when Carr scored a fast-break basket off a turnover and was capped off when Shorey scored from the low post on an assist from Leeman and then made a free throw to give the Blue Devils a 57-41 lead.
McLaughlin led Stearns with 16 points, while center Tyler Richards had 12 points and eight rebounds and Manzo also scored 12 points.
“Their defense took us out of any offensive flow,” said Stearns coach Wade Duplisea. “They played a great game defensively. We didn’t take care of the ball, and their defense made us take shots we didn’t want to take.”