BANGOR, Maine — Sore ankle and all, Fort Fairfield junior forward Travis Noyes came through on both ends of the floor Thursday afternoon.
Noyes forced a crucial turnover and then hit two free-throws on the subsequent possession as coach Todd Alley’s basketball team earned a dramatic 37-36 Eastern Maine Class D semifinal victory over Shead of Eastport at the Bangor Auditorium in a battle of Tigers.
No. 3 Fort Fairfield (18-2) will play Schenck of East Millinocket in Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. regional final while No. 7 Shead finishes 15-5.
With the score tied at 35 in the final minute, Fort Fairfield had somewhat of a flashback to last year’s quarterfinal loss to Bangor Christian, as Shead worked the ball around the perimeter, taking time off the clock.
But Noyes tied up Shead’s Caleb Ricker near halfcourt with 28.8 seconds left, and the FF Tigers had the possession arrow.
“We were not going to allow them to run all but 2.5 seconds off,” Alley said. “We were going to make something happen up front, put good ball-pressure on.”
Noyes was then fouled on a drive to the hoop with 13.3 seconds left, and he calmly sank both shots to give his team a two-point edge.
“There was a lot going through my head, I just tried to clear it as best I could and hit the foul shots,” said Noyes, who scored all seven of his points in the second half.
Shead’s Tyler Mitchell was fouled on a putback attempt with three-tenths of a second left, but he missed the first of his two foul shots.
The Tigers from Eastport frustrated their counterparts early with a diamond-and-one defense which limited Noyes and 6-foot-5 center John McNamee, as Fort Fairfield missed its first seven shots and trailed by five early in the second quarter.
But Fort Fairfield responded, closing the half on a 15-6 run, which included a 3-pointer from the right wing by Josh Booth with time winding down and the FF Tigers went in up 19-15.
“Travis didn’t get a lot of touches, but again, to have him not score and us be ahead at halftime I was feeling pretty good about our chances provided we took care of the basketball,” said Alley.
But Noyes got plenty of them in the second half, and there was no doubt he was going to get the ball with time winding down.
“Ever since he was a freshman, he hasn’t showed fear, even as a freshman coming in as a sub on this floor,” said Alley. “He wants to play and he wants the game in his hands when it comes to crunch time.”
Dave Medeiros, who scored a game-high 20 points for Shead, gave Fort Fairfield fits with his dribble-penetration skills and quickness around the basket.
He sparked a 9-5 Shead run in the fourth quarter with six points to help the Shead tie it after Fort Fairfield had gone up seven on Booth’s conventional 3-point play to start the period.
McNamee collected 12 points and nine rebounds for Fort Fairfield.