LEE — The Lee Academy boys basketball team never expected to be in such a position after leading by 18 points in the opening minute of the third quarter and with four Penobscot Valley players already in foul trouble.
But when the Pandas still needed a last-second shot in their home opener Wednesday night, Jasil Elder was armed to deliver. Elder made a 3-pointer as time expired to give Lee a 48-47 victory in an early-season showdown of Class C powers at Mallett Gymnasium.
Penobscot Valley had rallied from the 18-point, third-quarter deficit to take its only lead of the game (47-45) on two free throws by Jacob Jones with 6.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Lee point guard Arturas Makovskis then dribbled just beyond half-court before passing the ball to Elder in the left corner, and the junior guard’s shot went through the net as the buzzer sounded to give the Pandas the victory.
“I hoped he would pass me the ball because we practice that all the time, and Artie made a great pass. When I shot it, I thought, ‘It looks good,'” said Elder.
Penobscot Valley had two fouls to give in the final seconds without having to send Lee to the free-throw line, but while the Howlers pressured Makovskis defensively they weren’t able to draw a whistle.
“We were trying to foul,” said Penobscot Valley coach Jamie Russell. “We had two fouls to give and we rode him pretty hard, but we didn’t ride him hard enough.”
This game was an unlikely candidate for a last-second, game-winning shot at the outset of the second half when Makovskis scored on a drive to give Lee a 38-20 lead while Penobscot Valley had four starters saddled with three fouls each.
But the Howlers battled back as Lee experienced second-half foul trouble of its own, scoring 12 unanswered points during one stretch to draw within 43-37 at the end of the third quarter.
PVHS (1-1) then kept coming, with a baseline drive by Eddie Cobb and a follow-up basket by Joe McCloskey forging a 45-45 tie with 3:40 left. The teams then exchanged possessions until Jones converted twice from the free-throw line — leaving Lee with less than seven seconds for one final possession.
“I told the kids whether its 80-20 or its a 3-pointer at the buzzer, it all counts the same in the Heal points,” said Lee coach Randy Harris. “That’s not going to be the last time we play them, and we’ll probably play more than once.”
A.J. Harris led 2-0 Lee with 13 points, all in the first half, while Makovskis had 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Elder came off the bench to score 10 points and sophomore center Daniel He grabbed 10 rebounds.
McCloskey, despite being double- and triple-teamed throughout the game by the Lee defense, led Penobscot Valley with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Jones scored eight points.
“I’m not very long in the locker room after the game anyway,” said Russell, “but I said just one thing tonight, that I was proud of them because they got knocked out in the first round and came back out and made a fight of it.”
Lee forced eight Penobscot Valley turnovers in the first quarter, and A.J. Harris made the Howlers pay with 11 points in the period as the Pandas built a 14-6 lead.
After Penobscot Valley’s David Hallett opened the second quarter with a 15-foot jumper, Lee ran off nine unanswered points, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Elder and Bryan James, to build a 23-8 cushion. The Howlers got no closer than that for the rest of the half, with Lee taking its biggest lead of the second quarter at 36-18 on a free throw by David Cropley in the final minute before McCloskey scored from the low post to make it a 16-point game at the break.