HERMON, Maine — It was the last thing Presque Isle guard Nate Ackerson expected — particularly given that he started the decisive play in Saturday’s Class B boys basketball game against Hermon on defense.
But when the ball came to him after an errant Hermon inbounds pass, he calmly drove in for the game-winning layup with eight seconds left in overtime as the Wildcats outlasted the Hawks 54-52.
“I saw the ball come out ahead of me and picked it up,” said Ackerson. “I was waiting for some contact from behind, but nothing came.”
The win, Presque Isle’s second of the year over Hermon, improves the Wildcats’ record to 12-1. Hermon, which began the day ranked 11th in Eastern B — and only the first 10 teams qualify for postseason play in the division — falls to 6-6.
“Hermon played great,” said Presque Isle coach Tim Prescott. “I wouldn’t want to be playing them again.”
Hermon ran more than two minutes off the clock in what had been a scoreless overtime before calling time out with 11.8 seconds left to set up a play.
But a miscommunication on the inbounding play from the left sideline resulted in an errant pass that Ackerson grabbed in full stride and went in for the go-ahead basket.
“I just wanted to put some pressure on their kid in the backcourt,” said Ackerson. “They didn’t seem to be on the same page and the guy that passed it in couldn’t have set me up any better.”
Hermon had one last chance to tie the game, but Presque Isle’s Dillon Kingsbury tipped a close-range shot by the Hawks’ Joel Adams in the final seconds.
“I just got a fingertip on it,” said Kingsbury, “and it seemed to be just enough so it didn’t go in.”
Presque Isle, ranked fourth in Eastern B entering the game, had to withstand torrid 3-point shooting by the Hawks, particularly Colton and Taylor Gross.
Colton Gross shot 5 of 7 from beyond the arc — including 4 of 5 in the first half — while Taylor Gross was 3 of 5 from long distance overall, including a double-clutched, banked-in 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to give Hermon a 30-28 lead.
Presque Isle limited the brothers to just two more 3-pointers after intermission, in part by giving Kingsbury the defensive assignment on Colton Gross.
“This is the best game Dillon’s ever played in a Presque Isle uniform,” said Prescott. “Defensively he was immense. He did a lot of good things with the ball. He’s sort of our calming influence out there and I thought he was really good today.”
Kingsbury also led Presque Isle offensively with 14 points, while Travis Dyer scored 13 and Ackerson added 10.
Taylor Gross scored a game-high 21 points before fouling out early in overtime, while Colton Gross finished with 17 for Hermon, which finished the game 10 of 19 from 3-point land.
Presque Isle, which made just one 3-pointer, was able to offset that long-range shooting discrepancy at the free-throw line, where the Wildcats made 17 of 20 attempts compared to just 6 of 10 for Hermon.
Presque Isle took control of the contest midway through the second half, holding the Hawks without a point for more than five minutes while scoring nine straight points to take a 41-33 lead early in the fourth quarter.
But 3-point goals by Colton Gross and Taylor Gross, along with a three-point play by Taylor Gross, helped Hermon take a 48-47 lead with 3:42 left.
Kingsbury stole the ball and went in for a three-point play to restore Presque Isle to a 50-48 edge with 2:05 to play, but a follow-up basket by Taylor Gross and a 15-foot jumper by Colton Gross offset two free throws by Dyer to send the game into overtime.