AUGUSTA, Maine — The Washington Academy of East Machias boys basketball program has been marked by consistent success over the years, yet the gold ball symbolic of a state championship had proven elusive.
But when the Raiders faced the potential for similar heartbreak at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday night, their playmakers refused to let history repeat itself.
Senior guards Noah Von Rotz and Ben Teer combined for 21 fourth-quarter points to stymie a rally by Dirigo of Dixfield as WA defeated the Cougars 70-58 to claim its first Class C state championship.
Von Rotz scored 12 straight WA points after Dirigo had narrowed a 10-point third-quarter deficit to three midway through the final period. Teer added nine points in the quarter, including four free throws in the game’s final 20 seconds.
“I’ve got to hand it to Ben and Noah,” said WA coach Steve Pineo. “The game plan was to get it to our inside guys at the beginning of the ballgame, and they did that. Dirigo had to adjust, and when they did it opened things up for those guys, and they put on a show.”
Von Rotz finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, while Teer had 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals. Senior forward Bryce Colbeth added 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Raiders, while senior forward Justin Morren scored 10 points.
“They’re an extremely quick basketball team,” said Dirigo coach Dave Gerrish. “We had trouble keeping up with their guards, especially their creating and scoring, and we just didn’t have enough left in the tank.”
Tyler Chiasson and Tyler Gates each scored 14 points for Dirigo, which was seeking to add a basketball state title to the Class C football championship the school won last fall. Nic Crutchfield added 10 points and nine rebounds, while Eric Bolduc also scored 10 points, eight in the second half.
The win capped off a 21-1 season for WA, while Dirigo finished 18-4.
“This is something we wanted to do all season,” said WA junior forward Sam Stevens. “We set our goals early and we just kept going for it. It’s awesome.”
WA built a 40-30 third-quarter lead with a six-point run that included a follow-up shot and two free throws by Von Rotz around a Morren layup after a Teer steal. But Dirigo scored nine unanswered points to draw within 40-39 with two minutes left in the period.
“We got really run down in the third quarter,” said Colbeth, “but coach told us just to settle down, play our game and not try to do too much.”
The Cougars still were within two points when Teer flipped in a 3-pointer — WA’s lone 3-pointer of the game — as time expired to give WA a 47-42 cushion entering the final period.
“It wasn’t even my normal form, I just let it fly and it went in,” said Teer. “I was lucky. Some things are meant to happen.”
Dirigo refused to go away, staying within 52-49 on a baseline drive by Chiasson with 5:25 to play.
Then Von Rotz began to reassert himself offensively, his lightning-quick slashes into the lane producing three layups, another close-range basket and four free throws while WA’s trapping halfcourt defense limited Dirigo to four points over the next four minutes as WA assumed a 64-53 lead.
“We just went to the rim and attacked, “ said Von Rotz. “We could tell their legs were tired on defense, so we didn’t settle for jumpers.”
WA made 11 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, 21 of 27 for the game. “The foul shots were huge,” said Pineo. “We didn’t make those in the Eastern Maine final, but the kids made some foul shots down the stretch tonight.”
Dirigo scored the game’s first seven points on a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper by Gates and a follow-up shot by Crutchfield, but WA rallied to forge a 16-16 tie by the end of the first period as Teer broke down the Cougars’ defense and fed Colbeth for 10 early points and Morren for two more baskets.
“We knew we could beat them down low because they didn’t have size over us,” said Von Rotz. “We were finally bigger than a team for once, so we fed the big guys and got rolling after that.”
Teer and Von Rotz soon got their own offensive games rolling, as the Raiders the outscored Dirigo 12-2 over the first five minutes of the second period en route to a 32-24 halftime lead.
Teer scored on a floater from the lane, and Von Rotz followed in his miss for a three-point play that gave WA a 21-16 lead.
Crutchfield answered for Dirigo off a feed from Chiasson, but Von Rotz and Teer combined for three free throws before Colbeth redirected a Von Rotz pass from beyond halfcourt into the basket for a 26-18 WA lead to force a Dirigo timeout with 3:32 remaining in the period.
Morren added two free throws to give the Raiders a 10-point lead, a margin that grew to as much as 12 when Teer spotted Von Rotz cutting through the lane for a layup to give WA a 32-20 edge with 1:30 left in the half.