AUGUSTA, Maine — The Schenck of East Millinocket boys basketball team had never stepped onto the Augusta Civic Center basketball court until late Saturday morning for a brief shootaround.
But those shooting drills paid historic dividends later in the afternoon, when the Wolverines jumped out to an 11-0 lead and then used relentless defense to overwhelm Richmond 65-43 and win the Class D state championship.
“That’s the type of game you hope your team will play,” said veteran Schenck coach Steve LeVasseur. “Today’s game was the best game we’ve played, even counting the Eastern Maine tournament. We put everything together, which was nice to see.”
The championship is the first for Schenck since it won the Class C state title in 1994, and caps off a 21-1 season.
Richmond, appearing in the state final for the fourth time in the last five years but seeking its first gold ball since 1986, ends its season at 19-2.
Junior guard Eric Theriault led Schenck’s offense with 20 points, including five 3-pointers to tie the Class D state championship single-game record.
“Getting to practice here was important, because there’s a big backdrop that’s tough to get used to,” he said. “We basically came out and just took a bunch of shots, and I practiced the 3s and it helped out a lot.”
Twin brother Brandon Theriault dribbled his way inside the Richmond defense for 14 points and eight assists, while senior forward Jared Waite scored 13 points and junior forward Zach McLaughlin had eight points and seven rebounds.
Despite their unfamiliarity with the Civic Center court, the Wolverines shot 58 percent (24 of 41) for the game from the field, including 7 of 12 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“They shot the ball extremely well,” said Richmond coach Phil Houdlette. “I don’t know what they shot for a percentage, but we’ve played good defense all year. We hadn’t given up 65 points all year, but that’s a credit to them.
“I thought we worked hard, but they were just a better team.”
Schenck’s shooting accuracy was in evidence from the game’s outset, as Eric and Brandon Theriault each hit a 3-pointer during the game’s first 79 seconds and Brandon Theriault then drove into the lane and fed Jared Waite for two layups as Schenck surged out to an 11-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest.
“Our inside game’s always tough,” said Brandon Theriault, “so when we got the outside game going everything else just clicked.”
That included Schenck’s spread-out 2-3 zone defense in which the guards focused on the Bobcats’ 3-point shooters while Waite, senior forward Cody LeVasseur and sixth man Terry McCafferty were able to react quickly when Richmond sought to work the ball inside.
“We just had to stay on their perimeter shooters because we knew they liked to shoot the ball,” said Waite. “They had one guy inside who liked to take outside jumpers, too, so we just tried to extend our 2-3 and force them into bad shots, and it worked.”
Richmond, which committed 18 turnovers compared to just 10 for Schenck, got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“All week we practiced on having people on the perimeter, then collapsing off them when they dumped it down low,” said Brandon Theriault, “and it worked out well for us.”
The Wolverines led by as many as 14 in the first half, the final time at 31-17 on an Eric Theriault layup after a Brandon Theriault steal, before settling for a 33-22 advantage at the break.
Brandon Theriault then opened the second half with a 3-pointer, and Eric Theriault followed with back- to-back daggers from long range to suddenly extend the Schenck cushion to 42-22.
That was the start of a 15-2 run that gave the Wolverines their largest lead at 48-24 on a basket by McLaughlin late in the third quarter.
“We tried to not let Brandon Theriault penetrate,” said Houdlette, “and if he did to close out on his brother so he didn’t get open looks. But once he gets his shoulders by you we had to have somebody step up on him, and I’d rather give up a 3-point shot than a layup.”
Richmond managed to creep within 55-40 on a jumper by Thomas Carter with 3:30 left in the game, but Schenck countered with six straight points on a follow-up basket by McLaughlin, a short jumper by LeVasseur and a fast-break layup by Brandon Theriault to stretch its lead back to 61-40.
“They were supposed to be a good 3-point shooting team, but our defense shut them down,” said Cody LeVasseur, who helped limit 6-foot-4 Richmond center Bruce Carver to 12 points. “All four years here it’s been play the defense and the offense will come, and today proved it.”
Guard Nick Woods added 11 points for Richmond.
“I thought we had a better team and more athletes than they did,” said coach LeVasseur, “but I also knew coming down here we were 10 points down when we stepped on the floor and we had to make a statement defensively — and we did.”