HOWLAND, Maine — As monster games go, few can match the performance put on by Penobscot Valley’s Joe McCloskey when the stakes were at their highest at Sereyko Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
Not only did the 6-foot-7 junior center score 30 points and grab 17 rebounds, his short baseline jumper with 8.1 seconds left was the game-winner as the Howlers edged George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill 62-61 to earn their first tournament trip to the Bangor Auditorium in 23 years.
“It just hit us in the locker room, that we’re going to Bangor,” said McCloskey after Penobscot Valley’s dramatic victory in an Eastern Maine Class C boys basketball preliminary-round contest. “It’s something so crazy, it’s hard to imagine.”
Coach Jamie Russell’s eighth-ranked Howlers (12-7) will face top-seeded Washington Academy of East Machias (17-1) in a regional quarterfinal at 8:35 p.m. Tuesday.
No. 9 GSA finishes with an 8-11 record.
This game was tight throughout, with PVHS using a seven-point run featuring two Adam Callender layups and a followup basket by McCloskey to take its largest lead at 29-22 late in the first half.
The Howlers’ lead was 31-26 at intermission, and the game only got closer.
GSA ultimately took its largest lead at 61-58 on a 3-pointer from the right of the key by Nick Kane with 1:23 left in the contest.
But McCloskey — who scored 16 of his points directly after grabbing offensive rebounds —scored on a follow-up shot with 57 seconds left to pull Penobscot Valley back within a point.
“Whenever we shoot the ball, I look at it as a chance for me to score,” he said.
The Howlers fouled Kane with 21.5 seconds left, and McCloskey grabbed the defensive rebound after GSA missed both free throws. The Eagles made 11 of 16 from the line for the game, but just 3 of 8 in the final quarter.
PVHS worked the ball inside to McCloskey, who was triple-teamed just to the left of the basket but went over the top with a lefthanded 6-foot jumper that gave the lead back to the Howlers.
“I didn’t want to take a timeout at that point to give them a chance to set up their defense, and also because we had struggled at times getting the ball inbounds,” said Russell. “We didn’t get the best shot, but it was one Joey could make.”
McCloskey was fouled on the play but missed the free throw after each team took a timeout. GSA grabbed the rebound and worked the ball down court after another timeout with 4.4 seconds left, but a contested layup by Nick Doolittle fell off the rim and the Eagles were unable to gain control of the rebound before time expired.
“They played well,” said GSA coach Dwayne Carter of Penobscot Valley. “I thought we played well, too. We got a great look at the end, we just missed the last shot.”
McCloskey made 15 of 24 shots from the field, and he also contributed three assists and two blocked shots.
“He was a man among boys out there tonight,” said Russell. “It was a situation where we needed to go to him quite a bit, and he came through.”
Junior forward Jacob Jones added 18 points for the Howlers, including 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc, while junior point guard David Hallett had eight points and four assists and Callender — the lone senior on the PVHS roster — grabbed five rebounds.
Doolittle led GSA with 16 points and five rebounds. Elias Springer had 12 points and seven assists, while Kane came off the bench to shoot 4 of 5 from beyond the arc for 12 points and Tom Crowe added 10 points and five rebounds.
This game was played at a high level by both teams, with the teams combining for just 14 turnovers.
Both teams also shot well, with GSA making 57 percent (22 of 39) from the field at 67 percent (6 of 9) from beyond the 3-point arc and PVHS making 53 percent (25 of 47) from the field and 50 percent (6 of 12) from beyond the arc. “It seemed like they didn’t miss a shot,” said McCloskey, “but we shot pretty well, too.”