BANGOR — Aaron Toman was an invisible man during the first half of Friday night’s Eastern Maine Class B boys basketball quarterfinal between Gardiner and Presque Isle at the Bangor Auditorium — missing his only two field-goal tries and grabbing just one rebound.
But the 6-foot-2 junior center was a star after intermission, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds during the final two quarters as sixth-ranked Gardiner upended third-seeded Presque Isle 57-44 for its first postseason victory since the Tigers were a Class A team in 2007.
“I just started being more aggressive on the boards, looking for my own shot more, and just playing my game,” said Toman. “In the first half I was a little out of it, in the second half I played my game and it worked out well.”
The win advances Gardiner (14-5) to Wednesday night’s semifinals against the winner of Saturday morning’s quarterfinal between No. 2 Ellsworth and No. 10 Nokomis of Newport.
Presque Isle ends its season with a 17-2 record after having its 13-game winning streak ended.
Gardiner finished the game with a scant 29-25 rebounding advantage over the Wildcats, but the Tigers — and Toman — did much of their boarding damage at the offensive end, where they scored seven field goals directly on putbacks.
“They killed us on the boards,” said Presque Isle coach Tim Prescott.
But the Wildcats, who trailed 28-27 at halftime and 41-35 at the end of the third quarter, rallied within 43-42 on a runner by senior guard Travis Dyer with 5:30 left in the game.
Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy then called a timeout, and the Tigers responded with 10 unanswered points over the next three minutes to pull away.
Toman began the decisive surge with three straight baskets inside the Presque Isle defense, then followed a jumper by Spencer Allen with a follow-up basket to give Gardiner a 53-42 lead with 2:20 remaining.
“Once we decided we could spread the floor and get some better screens and make them adjust to what we were doing we were in better shape,” said Cassidy. “We made some adjustments at halftime to make them adjust to Toman, and they didn’t adjust to Toman and you saw what happened.”
Point guard Mike Trahan added 13 points for Gardiner, while Jake Palmer scored nine points, Kaleb Smith had eight and Spencer Allen had seven.
Dyer battled not only the Gardiner defense but a mid-game ankle injury to lead Presque Isle with 22 points on 10 of 19 shooting from the field. Alex Tuttle, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, added eight points and nine rebounds, while 6-foot-5 senior Oliver Zubrick had eight points and seven rebounds despite being saddled with second-half foul trouble.