BANGOR, Maine — Calais’ big man did everything he could to keep the Eastern Maine Class C boys basketball championship in familiar hands.
But Washington Academy’s big three wouldn’t be denied.
Ben Teer, Bryce Colbeth and Noah Von Rotz combined for 41 points Saturday night as the top-ranked Raiders outlasted four-time defending regional champion Calais 54-49 at the Bangor Auditorium to win their first regional title since 1998.
“Every day it’s been about the next game, the next game, and finally we can worry about the last game, the state championship,” said Teer, a guard who had 15 points and five assists. “We’re here, and we’re just so blessed. It feels great.”
Coach Steve Pineo’s club (20-1) will face Dirigo of Dixfield for the state title next Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center. Dirigo (18-3) won its second straight Western C crown with a 69-56 victory over Livermore Falls.
No. 2 Calais, which had won 16 straight tourney games in Bangor since falling in the 2005 EM quarterfinals to Penquis of Milo, finishes 18-3 — with all three losses to Washington Academy.
“We put ourselves in position, we just didn’t take care of the ball when we needed to,” said Calais coach Ed Leeman, whose defending state champs were hindered by 29 turnovers. “Some of that’s inexperience, and the other part of that is because of WA. They speed you up, sometimes they outrun the ball.”
Calais was able to hold WA six points below its previous low for a game this season, but the Raiders ultimately won thanks largely to their own defensive tenacity.
“That’s what you try to do to a team, get them out of their comfort zone,” said Teer. “Like coach says we need to play a little controlled chaos on the defensive end, and that’s exactly what we did.”
This certainly was nothing like their most recent meeting, a 78-41 Washington Academy blitzkrieg at East Machias on Feb. 2.
“It’s Bangor,” said Colbeth, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and five steals. “We beat them by 37 back at home, and you had to know they were going to come back with something tonight. They knew all of our plays, they knew everything. But we stuck to what we knew best and we ran and ran like we normally do.”
WA had to overcome a monster 26-point, 12-rebound performance by Calais center Cam Shorey.
“We didn’t play as scared today,” said Shorey. “We came in with a lot more confidence than we did going into WA the last time, and we attacked their pressure better with pressure on offense, moving the ball and forcing it down their throats a little rather than being tentative.
“But they run the floor and you get tired. They’re fast. You try to run with them, but gradually you slow down.”
Shorey sparked an 8-0 run in the first two minutes of the second half to erase a 28-21 halftime deficit and give Calais its final lead.
First the 6-foot-5 junior grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Josh Gillespie for a layup. Then he grabbed a defensive rebound and drove the distance for a layup. Then he had a steal on the defensive end and scored another layup. Finally he scored off an inbounds pass from Jeremy Carr to give the Blue Devils a 29-28 edge.
“He stepped up,” said Leeman. “He’s a quiet leader, he’s not a vocal leader, but he can play the game, and I’m glad he’s a Blue Devil.”
But Washington Academy’s three leading seniors, Teer, Von Rotz and Colbeth, led a charge that ultimately ended Calais’ upset hopes.
A pull-up 3-pointer by Teer at the end of the third quarter gave WA a 43-37 lead, and Colbeth scored three straight baskets after three straight Calais turnovers to extend the margin to 50-39 midway through the fourth quarter.
“Their heart and their pride is what brought them back,” said Pineo. “Calais gave us everything they could and more, but the guys buckled down and got back to work. That’s been our motto all season.”
Gillespie made a layup to trigger an 8-0 run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by Jeremy Beers and Joe Mitchell just 14 seconds apart to close the gap to 50-47 with 2:42 to play.
Calais wouldn’t draw any closer. Von Rotz scored after grabbing an offensive rebound and Sam Stevens added a basket on a goaltending call to offset a Shorey tip-in and leave WA with a five-point lead in the final minute.