ROCKPORT — The Camden Hills boys basketball team has been the class of Class B statewide for the last decade, with four state championships and six Eastern Maine titles during that span.
But the undefeated Windjammers may have elevated their program’s standard of excellence another notch during the first half of Friday night’s showdown with Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, blowing out to a stunning 37-point lead at intermission en route to an 84-39 victory.
Camden Hills (16-0) made 12 of its first 13 shots in the game while erupting for 34 first-quarter points, and harassed a Medomak Valley team that was riding an 11-game winning streak of its own entering the contest into 17 turnovers while allowing just five field goals in the first two quarters.
What had been billed as the game of the year in the Midcoast region was so one-sided that opposing Class B coaches scouting the game for tournament purposes were seen leaving the gymnasium with five minutes left in the first half.
They’d seen enough, and so had Medomak Valley.
“Against that quality of a team, that’s about as good as it gets,” said longtime Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart, who has witnessed plenty of high-quality performances among his more than 400 victories with the Windjammers. “Like I told the guys, every time we’ve come out for a game and focused and knew we had to play at the top of our game, we’ve done it every single time. So I think we’re starting to learn that if we do that we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”
Camden Hills got its usual stellar play from 6-foot-6 frontcourt mates Tyler McFarland and Keegan Pieri, who combined for 31 points, 17 rebounds and a thunderous dunk apiece.
But the catalyst on this night was senior guard Joel Gabriele, who scored a game-high 18 points — all in the first half — and ruined Medomak Valley’s offensive flow with nine steals, six pass deflections and two blocked shots out of the Windjammers’ pressing defenses.
“Joel is the kid who gets us started,” said McFarland, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. “He’s the one putting the ball pressure on, and he’s the one who really sets the tone defensively. He has a great knack for the ball and loves playing on the defensive end and then getting out on the break. Without him we wouldn’t be half the defensive team we are.”
Camden Hills never trailed, with McFarland hitting two quick baskets and feeding Gabriele for a fast-break layup to give the Windjammers a 6-2 lead 68 seconds into the contest.
And fast breaks soon became the frequent byproduct of the Windjammers’ defense, with their trapping sets creating turnovers that produced transition opportunities and Camden Hills also seeking to run after grabbing defensive rebounds.
That resulted in the highest of early shooting percentages, with Camden Hills’ only miss from the field during the game’s first six minutes resulting in an offensive rebound and putback basket by McFarland.
By the time Medomak Valley (12-4) grabbed its first defensive rebound, Camden Hills had a 32-9 lead.
McFarland scored 10 points in the opening quarter and Gabriele added nine, and by the time Kyle Olehnik capped off the period with a fast-break layup of his own, Camden Hills had a 34-10 advantage.
“That’s a staple of Camden Hills basketball, it starts with defense,” said Gabriele. “We came out with the most intensity I’ve seen in my career as a team, and we forced turnovers and that’s how we get our points.”
The onslaught continued into the second quarter, with Camden Hills capping off the first half with a 13-1 run that featured three straight baskets by Pieri (17 points, nine rebounds), another steal and layup by Gabriele and a 3-pointer by Caleb McFarland with four seconds left to give the Windjammers a 56-19 lead at the break.
Gabriele had eight steals in the first two quarters alone to go with his 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
“We came out with a ton of energy tonight, probably the most energy we’ve had all season,” said Pieri. “It was a playoff atmosphere out there, so we treated it that way.”
Junior guard Isaac Greenrose led Medomak Valley with 11 points, while sophomore center John Murray added eight points and five rebounds.