MACHIAS, Maine — The Machias boys basketball team breaks the opening huddle before each game with the one-word chant: “Bangor.”
It’s a reminder of the Bulldogs’ collective goal, to qualify for the Eastern Maine Class D tournament at the Bangor Auditorium come February vacation.
Coach Jim Getchell’s club took a major step toward realizing that aspiration Friday night, knocking off previously undefeated Jonesport-Beals 59-55 before a standing-room-only crowd at the “Dog House.”
“This was a big win for us,” said senior guard Matt Little, whose team began the night ranked 13th in Eastern D, three slots out of a playoff berth under the new 50 percent qualifying rule in place this season.
“They’re a good team, but we went out and did what we had to do.”
What Machias did was a juggling act between offensive patience and aggressiveness. The Bulldogs wanted to play at a more deliberate pace than Jonesport-Beals, but when the Royals countered with full-court defensive pressure and a half-court trap to force a faster tempo, Machias went hard to the basket and converted a suc-cession of layups and other close-range shots.
For the game, Machias shot 56 percent (28 of 50) from the field compared to 35 percent (20 of 59) for a youthful Jonesport-Beals team whose fast-break opportunities were limited by the Bulldogs’ ability to make shots.
“We wanted to be patient with the ball,” said Getchell, the first-year head coach for Machias. “But when they came at us with pressure, we wanted to go to the basket.”
Little led a balanced Machias attack with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting along with seven rebounds and four assists. Senior forward Noah Prescott added 14 points and five rebounds, while junior forward Brian Getchell shook off three first-half fouls to amass 12 points and six rebounds, and senior center Ty Richards had 11 points and five assists.
Garet Beal, a 6-foot-4 freshman, led 8-1 Jonesport Beals with 23 points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Andrew Beal added 10 points.
Neither team led by more than five points in this Downeast Athletic Conference battle, including Jonesport-Beals’ 30-25 advantage at halftime. That lead came via a 9-2 second-quarter run that featured four free throws from reserve Zachary Smith and a jumper and a 3-pointer by Andrew Beal.
Machias (4-4) came out quickly in the third quarter, and took a 35-34 lead midway through the period when Prescott fed Richards for a press-beating layup.
The Bulldogs maintained that one-point lead at the end of the quarter before a fourth period that featured back-and-forth scoring and ties at 51-51 and 53-53 before Machias took the lead for good on a layup by Prescott with 1:50 remaining.
Jonesport-Beals managed just two free throws over the final 2:36, and having committed just two fouls to that point in the half, the Royals couldn’t force Machias to the line to make free throws in order to win the game.
Instead Jonesport-Beals continued to apply pressure, and Machias continued to make tough shots.
Little executed a perfect jump-stop for a 10-footer from the lane to give the Bulldogs a 57-54 lead with 30 seconds left.
Matthew Alley then missed a 3-pointer for Jonesport-Beals, but teammate Tyler Turcotte was fouled while grabbing an offensive rebound. Turcotte made one of two free throws with 6.3 seconds left to close the gap to two points before Richards took an inbounds pass from Brian Getchell and went in for a game-clinching layup.
“We’re still a work in progress,” said coach Getchell, whose team had little time for celebration with another game scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Deer Isle-Stonington. “This is my first year with these kids and we’re doing some different things out there, but things are starting to come together.”