BANGOR, Maine — For the Calais boys basketball team, the first-half pace of Friday’s Eastern Maine Class C semifinal with Lee Academy was pedestrian.
The Pandas drew the Blue Devils into a half-court game, and as a result, took a 27-22 lead into halftime.
But coach Ed Leeman’s club roared into high gear in the final 16 minutes, holding Lee to two fourth-quarter field goals to pull away for a 57-47 win at the Bangor Auditorium.
The second-ranked Devils (18-2) will play top-ranked Washington Academy of East Machias for the regional title at 8:45 tonight, while No. 3 Lee finished 15-5.
The Pandas built their first-half lead behind the shooting of Ryan Beers, who canned four 3-pointers en route to 14 first-half points.
“We knew we had to get out on him,” said Calais senior Cam Shorey, who led the Blue Devils with 19 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
“We also knew hopefully someone couldn’t shoot that well the entire game or we’d be in trouble.”
Calais struggled with its own offense in the first half, as the Pandas switched between a 3-2 zone and man-to-man, forcing the Blue Devils to take hurried shots.
“We were really anxious offensively,” Leeman said. “I thought we weren’t real patient offensively in the first half.”
Calais then turned up its full-court pressure to create some fast-break opportunities, and the Pandas couldn’t keep up.
“I think what happened was we got into too much of an up and down game,” said Lee coach Randy Harris. “We told them at halftime, they’re going to come after us in the second half and they’re going to press, and we didn’t handle it very well.”
Trailing 38-37 heading into the fourth, Lee seemed to re-gain momentum after Beers’ conventional 3-point play gave the Pandas a 40-38 lead, but Joe Mitchell canned a perimeter shot from the right wing on the subsequent possession which gave Calais the lead for good.
The Devils stretched it out to seven on back-to-back 3-pointers from Ryan Cavanaugh and Shorey, and Lee didn’t get any closer than that.
“Some of the younger guys were afraid to shoot the ball earlier in the game,” Shorey said. “We talked about it, we’re good shooters, we need to shoot the ball.”
Mitchell, a sophomore forward who scored all nine of his points from beyond the arc — he was 3 of 5 — really felt he and his teammates settled down after halftime.
“We were rushing things too much in the first half,” said Mitchell. Leeman discovered in practice recently that Mitchell can be a threat from the outside.
“It’s kind of funny. We were using him as the shooter for Lee in practice and he was draining everything,” said Leeman. “I made a call there in the third quarter to get him in, he stepped in and hit [some] big threes and played really aggressive. As a sophomore, that’s big. I thought he had a big game for us.”
Even though the Pandas featured a long, lean big man in 6-foot-9 junior Youssou Ndoye, who had a thunder slam in the third quarter on a fast break, Leeman wasn’t too concerned about the inside game.
“I’ve got to be honest, I was more worried about their guard play than him,” said Leeman “I thought we could neutralize him pretty well with Cameron and some of the others.”
Ndoye did score 11 points for Lee, while Beers finished with 18.